Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

The Case For Solar Power

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 13, 2010

I’ve written in the past about the Solar Roadways concept. Well, thanks to a $100,000 grant from the US Department of Transportation last year, it’s now a bit more than just a concept:

On Feb. 5, Scott Brusaw demonstrated a 12-foot by 12-foot solar road panel in a friend’s garage in Sagle. A cameraman filmed the event, and officials with the U.S. Department of Transportation will likely visit the demonstration by the end of February.


“I thought, you know, I can build this,” said Brusaw. He started Solar Roadways four years ago with his wife Julie. “If they’re going to give me 100 grand, I’ll take half of it and buy the parts I need and put it together.”

So Brusaw spent the last six months in his home electronics lab building a small solar panel road prototype. By Feb. 12, he’ll submit a final report detailing his project’s feasibility to the USDOT.


After the demonstration, the USDOT will decide whether to give Brusaw an additional $750,000. That money would be used to build highway-size solar road panels that could be driven on and thoroughly tested.

Fingers crossed here. This may be what saves humanity. (Or at least saves humanity from a thousand-year period of starvation, famine and barbarism.)

13 Responses to “The Case For Solar Power”

  1. Stormcrow said

    PW, nothing’s going to save humanity except about 70 extra IQ points across the board, and the ability to use those brains while under existential levels of stress.

    Neither of those things is going to happen until we get ourselves a whole new genome.

    And that’s going to take a couple of million years of time, which we don’t have.

    Game over.

    • Nah, we’ll be OK for another hundred thousand years — we will go extinct eventually, but so have 99% of all species that have ever existed. Granted, we’re going to pass through one hell of a huge bottleneck soon if we don’t do things like the Solar Roadway (not to mention sensible population controls), but in the long run we’ll be better off. The choice is whether we do things sanely or insanely; if we take the latter route, the next three hundred years will really suck.

      But I’m optimistic about the Solar Roadway, as it solves so many problems at one stroke: Not just climate change, not just pollution, not just energy insufficiency, but also the energy wars that have been a key part of the past century. End the energy wars, and things will be a lot pleasanter for most humans.

      • Stormcrow said


        We’re going to kill ourselves within another century or two, and we’re going to take the planet with us when we do. It’ll still circle in its orbit, but there won’t be much life on it more complex than bacteria.

        Start with some nice global warming – no, we’re not going to fix that. Combine the present Westphalian nation-state system with unpoliced capitalism, and what happens next is regulatory capture. We’ve already seen this happen here, and there’s no longer a way out. The course of the Obama administration has made that eloquently clear, for anyone who doubted.

        And that goes double for the PRC. Already happened; done deal. The only difference I can see is that their control over their population is more overt than ours, and they don’t seem to have bought into the (obsolete) notion of a military empire.

        When it gets hot enough for long enough, we will then proceed to the wars the resulting famines and population displacement will cause. People will be desperate enough to go at each other with nukes. Or worse. Once the nuclear sword is drawn, there’ll be no turning back.

        Or they won’t. I think that’s the low probability. In which case, we go on like this until the planet becomes flat-out uninhabitable. Whether the planet goes into runaway Greenhouse and ends up like Venus is open to debate, but we won’t be around to see for ourselves by then.

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  9. Geez, Stormie, who peed in your cornflakes this week? Reflexive pessimism may seem cool — kinda like wearing a beret, I guess — but no matter how much you may want us to go away, I don’t think we will. I do think that there will be a lot fewer of us, especially if we take the hard way out, but that we’ll make it. The big question here is, if we go the hard way, how many of us will want to be alive to see when things really start to hurt?

    The African-Americans and Hispanics among us are probably the best prepared, as they’ve been doing more with less (both materially and in terms of human rights) for a lot longer than the typical middle- to upper-class Caucasian. In fact, one of the things that used to tick off Steve Gilliard more than anything was when relatively-cosseted white people started moaning and groaning about how we no longer had a Constitution. He pointed out repeatedly that the Bill of Rights effectively didn’t apply to black people until the 1960s. Not 1860s, 1960s. Yet they clawed their way to a place at the table, and they did it by using their brains. (For instance, when Dr. King was alive and could control how the civil rights marches were conducted, he made sure that everyone there was dressed in the best go-to-meeting and/or job-interview clothes they had, and that the signs they carried were professionally printed. People looked at them and saw sober, trustworthy, serious-minded persons. Contrast that with how the white trust-fund babies who organized the later marches against the Vietnam War did things. They pissed off Joe and Jane Lunchbucket so much, it helped throw the 1968 elections to Nixon.)

    • Charles II said

      PW says, “they clawed their way to a place at the table, and they did it by using their brains.”

      Well… yes… and a lot of help from white allies. While the northern churches did not give King the support he deserved, a lot of associate pastors and congregants did. For MLK day, my church invited people of that age to recall their experiences with civil rights. It was led by a couple whose husband had left their four children to face what could have been death in the march from Selma. For Rev. James Reeb, it was. While I am not satisfied with white participation in the civil rights movement, without white support, the civil rights movement would have gone nowhere.

      I also disagree with your characterization of the later marchers against the Vietnam War as self-indulgent. What really happened, in my opinion, was a case of the culture shock that early television produced. Just as TV images of the civil rights movement showed northerners what life was like for African Americans in the South, TV images of protests showed rural people life in the big city (which is where the demos took place).

      Most of the protestors were ordinary people (or at least, ordinary for their communities), scared about being drafted for a war that was being grossly mismanaged. They did not dress for demos. They showed up in their normal clothes. As for p–sing off Joe and Jane Lunchbucket, there was a systematic campaign to demonize the protestors… for political gain.

      I happen to know of an entire class in a small college that, with a couple of exceptions, was arrested at MayDay, in an illegal mass arrest. Approximately ten percent of the class were Vietnam veterans at the time of their arrest.

      I might call them scruffy, but I wouldn’t call them self-indulgent.

    • Stormcrow said

      Geez, Stormie, who peed in your cornflakes this week? Reflexive pessimism may seem cool — kinda like wearing a beret, I guess — but no matter how much you may want us to go away, I don’t think we will.

      It isn’t “reflexive”. Unfortunately.

      I’ve spent the last three decades of my life as close to the interface where humans manage their technical systems as possible.

      Bottom line, we’re not smart enough to do this.

      You want me to start listing off the number of tech companies who managed to get everything working just right, and then shot themselves right straight through the head?

      I’ve also spent quite a bit of quality time over the last 40+ years, studying how humans think under extreme levels of stress.

      Bottom line: we don’t.

      The “rational” part of our brains is the very first faculty to go bye-bye. This worked well enough back when survival meant running far and fast while under extreme stress. These days, survival means thinking far and fast while under extreme stress. And guess what? All that adrenaline that just got pumped into your veins has switched your mind clean off.

      Try teaching math for a decade. What you’ll learn is that logic is on the periphery of human mental capability. The outer edge of the envelope.

      If you spend a couple of decades in academia, you will see people who can run rings around you mentally, but who simply come to pieces when they stray one millimeter off their intellectual dead center. If you think this is confined to academics, think again. I can name off at least half a dozen currently active bloggers, some of whom I read every day, with the same damned problem.

      Bottom line: the “rational” part of our brains packs up and leaves, often, without giving notice, and always when it can least be afforded.

      I could go on.

      But the conclusion is fairly straightforward. We’re running through a very VERY narrow place right now. Same sort of mess that Rome was in, after the Persians got their shit straight, back in the early 3’rd century. No room for error at all. Fuck up once, badly enough, and you’re irretrievably lost.

      And we don’t have the mental wherewithal to negotiate this. Our literally mindless tribalism and greed are winning, hands down, every hand that’s dealt. At bottom, we are driven by our instincts, programmed right into our genes. And they did not evolve to handle the demands placed on them by technical civilization.

      We need time to evolve. And we just don’t have it: the crisis is on us right now. Not in a million years or so, which is the time scale evolution-driven genetic change requires.

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