Saturday, February 5, 2011

Solar storage under roads to reduce effect of Salt and Ice

4 Feb 2011: I have recently been interested in 'solar roads' of which there are quite a few google references. It was also stimulated by reading that the UK was running out of Road Salt and having to important thousands of tons.
   A system of solar heat storage that could be used to defrost roads would save hundreds of thousands of tons of salt every year, plus all the cost of damage it does to the water table, and the vehicles that drive over the same roads, and cost of the vehicles and crews that have to do the salting.
    When roads are relaid, it would be good to add this system. Underneath roads there are many other things, such as the sewers gas and water, and electrics for traffic lights and street lighting, and telecoms / TV coaxial cables. The local authorities know what is under most of the urban roads, so that know what is there when they have to dig.
   I have heard of this system used in Scandinavia or Holland, but would be difficult to remember where this was. I found that ICAX who were mentioned here some while back have done some experiments with ICAX solar roads using summer thermal storage underground, and circulating liquid. They have laid some prototypes.
   There is another system called Solar Road which is a lot more sophisticated with active lighting systems, power generation etc. but that is in a different league of cost and expectation. What I am writing about is simply defrosting roads to reduce the risk of ice.
    It doesnt need heat pumps. Just a small pump serving each bank of pipes, to recirculate heat, moving heat from the road in summer to deeper down, and during the month of Dec and Jan could be thermostatically activated to circulate again, this time bringing deep ground temperature to the surface. It would melt off the ice.
   We have had five winters in succession, each getting progressively colder, since 2005. Will next winter bounce back? Or will this continue, as part of the climate change trend whereby as other parts of the world may get warmer (eg the Canadian Arctic), as the UK gets colder?

15 April '11 Postscript: I see that Heathrow Airport is considering this system, and it is on the front page of the Guardian! See the article - I will write about it in this Charging blog in the April section.

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