Sunday, March 2, 2008

18-Wheelers as Energy Collectors?

Our country went in the wrong direction when we ripped up our rail infrastructure and moved to carrying goods across country in vehicles that are less efficient, require more people to be involved and increase the risks on the roadways. Now the trucking industry does provide jobs for many people that need work and the pay is not bad for someone lacking an education, but the truth of the matter is, this is not a sustainable industry in the long run. With fuel prices continuing to rise and transportation passing the cost on to consumers it would seem that the more efficient train should be making a comeback. The problem, as mentioned above, is that we have chosen to remove a lot of the existing railways thus forcing us to keep the trucks for a bit longer.

There is one possible good thing that may come out of the trucking industry and that is in the fact that 18-Wheelers are mobile, they are often in the sun without shade, and they have big flat surfaces on top of their trailers that are prime for placing the more efficient solar panels that are being developed today. Usually solar panels require a mechanism that tracks the sun and keeps the panel facing the energy source. This would not be feasible on a flat surface traveling at 70 miles an hour that needs to be somewhat aerodynamic. Luckily a company named Prism Solar has created solar panels that use holographic techniques to direct the light to the collectors thus eliminating the need for moving parts that traditional control the panels.

Now what would you do with a truck that had solar panels on the top of its trailer? Well, you would drive it around as you normally would and collect and store the suns energy inside of on-board batteries. This energy could be used by the driver at night to run the cab electronics or to further feed the power needs of the vehicle during normal operation. A further use could be "dumping" the power at distribution centers or feeding the energy into the grid at truck stops.

If you think of the number of tractor trailers on the highway all driving in the sun. If you take all those trucks and imagine them together as a whole there could be a great amount of energy that could be obtained from this untapped mobile "real estate" on the highway. If nothing else, it would at least lower the carbon footprint of the transportation industry.

Holographic Solar Panels

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