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Three initiatives that could change America’s path and help fight climate change

On August 1, 2007, traffic jams stretched the I-35 bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. It was another normal day during the evening rush hour. Some commuters may have heard “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s, the #1 hit in the country at the time; or maybe they were watching the radio and were updated on the early days of the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries. Suddenly, just after 6 p.m. local time, The bridge over the river collapsed. About 145 people were injured and 13 people were killed.

Once a wonder of the modern world, America’s roads, bridges, and railroads are now not even in the top 10 countries for infrastructure according to World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report. The Minneapolis Bridge collapsed almost a decade later in 2015 Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia. Another three years passed and a pedestrian bridge collapsed kills six people at Florida International University. There have been many smaller disasters caused by crumbling infrastructure.

With the recent signing of the Jobs and Infrastructure Investment Act into law, the United States is about to undergo the biggest overhaul to its infrastructure in generations. But there are environmental costs to grid retrofit, water supply and transportation. Build construction account for 38 percent of all global carbon dioxide emissions. Follow EPA, construction and demolition materials generate twice as much waste as all other types of municipal waste. A 2018 study found that the construction industry accounts for 30% of all waste generated worldwide.

As a result of America’s longstanding car culture, part of the solution lies in the way we build roads and bridges. There are several major solutions that may be worth a closer look.

Photoelectric line

Nestled in the countryside in rural Idaho is a startup company called Solar Road, pursuing the ambitious goal of replacing America’s roads and sidewalks with solar panels you can drive on. The company claims these photovoltaic roads not only help make the road and its lighting system self-sufficient, but can also power the entire country.

The technology is simple: Each road is made of small interconnected hexagonal panels measuring about 4 square feet. The panels collect the sun’s rays and convert it into energy that power lights and signs mounted on the roadway.

The panels could also power adjacent homes and businesses in neighboring areas, creating a decentralized local grid so electricity doesn’t need to travel long distances. . This could be a particularly attractive safety net against large-scale grid failures like those experienced in Texas. last winter and in time 2019 NYC power outage. Any additional power generated can be fed back to the traditional grid.

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A prototype of Solar Roadways’ three photovoltaic line panels.

Solar Road

Unlike solar panels installed along roads, Solar Roadways’ panels are essentially part of the road surface. Because each panel is independent, they can be easily replaced quickly and without costly and timely roadwork projects. Renovation just means replacing damaged panels instead of filling potholes and resurfacing entire sections of the highway.

“If a dashboard no longer communicates, I can throw one, since it weighs only 70 pounds, in the back of my Subaru and drive out there and swap it out in five minutes,” said Solar co-founder Roadways, Scott Brushaw told The Daily Beast.

Although Brushaw’s company experienced some initial success with funding (it received a $100,000 grant for a prototype from the Federal Highway Administration in 2014 and raised over $2.2 million from an Indiegogo . campaign same year), it took years to fully demonstrate the panels could withstand stressors such as heat waves, floods, and icy driving conditions. Solar Roadways is finally expected to move into mass production next year.

“We were working with a mass production company in Detroit, an automaker wanted to take over their panel production and they already had a warehouse,” said Brushaw.

Installing a photovoltaic path is a time- and resource-intensive project, but Solar Roadways argues that the electricity generated in the long run will offset those initial costs. The company claims their dashboard has 23% energy efficiency ratio. Its current projections suggest that covering all of the country’s roads in photovoltaic panels could generate 23.7 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity.

This is only a fraction of the 3.8 trillion kilowatt hours US use in 2020. But panels are only expected to become more efficient as the technology improves. Some of the newest solar panels are about to hit the market proudly 45 percent effective-One up more than 25 percentage points since 2015.

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The world’s first solar road in Normandy, France.

Charly Triballeau / AFP via Getty Images

To be clear, there are other major limitations to photovoltaic pathways that explain why Solar Roadways has been slow to enter mass production. Solar panels are less efficient when placed flat – so we often see them leaning or shifting with the sun throughout the day. On top of that, normal wear and tear inevitably reduces efficiency.

The failure of other photovoltaic road projects underscores these challenges. A section of photovoltaic highway built in Normandy in December 2016 deteriorated in just two and a half years. According to French newspaper world, the panels are broken and don’t draw as much power as advertised. Even successful comparable projects have been limited in scope, including a stretch of highway in Georgia called The Ray. Its plates cover an 18-mile stretch of I-85 — a modest, undisturbed distance. The success or failure of Solar Roadways is essentially a refreshing case study for photovoltaic road technology in general.

The electric car is ready for a supercharger

One effort that has received broader support from both the public and private sectors is a comprehensive electric vehicle (EV) charging network. This will include stations scattered across the nation’s interstate highway system as well as on city roads across the country.

As part of the Recommended Better Rebuild Plan (now in limbo after Senator Joe Manchin withdrew his support), the Biden administration aims to install about 500,000 EV stations in the US by 2030.

Bill McKibben, well-known environmental activist and founder of an environmental nonprofit: “If you’re upgrading roads, the job is to charge the electricity next to it. 350.org, told The Daily Beast.

The goal of the Biden administration is to see half of the cars sold in the U.S. go carbon-free by 2030. Several automakers have made a commitment to convert most, if not all, of their fleets to electric vehicles by this time, including Ford and GM.

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An EV charging station in a Walmart parking lot in Duarte, California.

Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images

An axis to EVs does not close all sources of carbon emissions by itself. According to a 2019 report from the MIT Energy Initiative, the production of electric car batteries and fuel cells themselves actually produce more carbon emissions than the production of traditional gas-guzzling vehicles – perhaps 40% more, according to a report from CNBC. And electric vehicle charging stations still have to draw electricity from local power sources, which often include fossil fuels. California, the largest state Electric vehicle market share, still OK two-third its energy from non-renewable sources.

An expanded network of charging stations is crucial for more EV adoption. One of the biggest obstacles is that the existing toll stations across the country are too few and far away. There is a strong presence of stations on the coast and most major cities, but an absence of stations in large areas of the US. Midwest are preventing many consumers from switching to electric vehicles.

Victory over those drivers would be a major coup against climate change. Traditional single-person vehicles are used by most people to get to work. some amount of damage global greenhouse gas emissions.

CONCRETE SOLUTIONS

Some of the common sense parts of how we build our roads, highways, and bridges will last for decades no matter what kind of new technology we adopt. And these will still pose an environmental problem. According to clean energy research group BloombergNEF, using greener forms of concrete – even those that use only 10% less carbon – would be the equivalent of putting more than half a million combustion engine cars on the road.

Concrete requires water and some form of filler such as gravel to make a roadway or sidewalk. Gravel is often obtained through mining, which can destroy nearby ecosystems.

Sustainable materials company Arqlite, based in California, has developed an alternative to gravel made from vascularized plastics (a form of spinoff recycling in which instead of breaking down the plastic before re-manufacturing it into a new product). , used plastic is converted directly into new products).

Sebastian Sajoux, founder and CEO of Arqlite, told The Daily Beast: “We are actually mining a landfill instead of mining a quarry. The Arqlite material is three times lighter than other gravel substitutes, he said. That means truckers can pack more filler in their trucks to get to construction sites — which means fewer trips with larger trucks and fewer trips. more carbon emissions from those vehicles. It has been used by construction companies in all 50 states, according to the company.

Other companies are pursuing their own traditional concrete alternatives. Grasscrete, based in the UK, uses an absorbent material that allows grass to grow through the concrete. That improves drainage and prevents contaminated rainwater from flowing into rivers, lakes, and streams. This type of concrete was first introduced in the 70s and is already in use in places like Texas and Georgia, but there is an opportunity to apply it more widely to American roads.

There are even a number of other concrete alternatives being studied, including concrete fillers made from mushrooms. In 2017, researchers at Rutgers University found that mixing Trichoderma reesei fungal spores into a concrete mix that will protect the pavement from wear over time. When cracks appear, water seeps through the surface and causes fungal spores to germinate, which then produces calcium carbonate that seals the cracks. It’s a far-fetched concept and still hasn’t passed many standards for real-world use, but it could be a hugely useful way to make normal road work a thing of the past.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/three-innovations-that-could-transform-americas-roads-and-help-combat-climate-change?source=articles&via=rss Three initiatives that could change America’s path and help fight climate change

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