Environment

Turning freeways into electricity generating 'Solar Serpents'

Mans Tham's "Solar Serpents in Paradise" idea would see city freeways covered in solar panels
Mans Tham's "Solar Serpents in Paradise" idea would see city freeways covered in solar panels
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CO2 rich air could be captured and piped to algae ponds alongside the freeway
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CO2 rich air could be captured and piped to algae ponds alongside the freeway
Mans Tham's "Solar Serpents in Paradise" idea would see city freeways covered in solar panels
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Mans Tham's "Solar Serpents in Paradise" idea would see city freeways covered in solar panels
The Solar Serpent would also provide shade to commuters
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The Solar Serpent would also provide shade to commuters

With solar power plants requiring large areas which aren't usually available in or close to urban areas, Sweden-based architect Mans Tham proposes cities like Los Angeles take a different road – covering the city’s freeways in solar panels. His "Solar Serpents in Paradise" idea would see 24km (15 miles) of LA's Santa Monica Freeway covered in solar panels – with an average width of 40m (131 ft), that adds up to an area of 960,000 m2 (10,333,354 Sq Ft), enough space for 600,000 domestic panels, which could generate 150 GWh per year. That's more than enough to provide electricity to all the households of Venice, California.

Tham points out that, due to space constraints, the Los Angeles Solar Program focuses on roofs on private and public buildings within the city and solar plants in the Mojave Desert. By covering the large areas dedicated to roads – Los Angeles County has around 800km (497 miles) – in solar panels, Tham says the city could take advantage of public land with existing points of access for maintenance for use as a large scale solar installation.

The Solar Serpent would also provide shade to commuters
The Solar Serpent would also provide shade to commuters

Aside from capturing solar energy, the “Solar Serpent” would also shade the roads and reduce the need for air conditioning in vehicles traveling under them. It would also allow charging stations to be placed under road overpasses for electric vehicles to recharge in addition to using the locally produced electricity to be used by local households and businesses with minimal transmission costs and loss of electricity due to transmission over long distance power lines.

Tham’s idea also proposes capturing the CO2 rich air from within the Solar Serpent to be piped into algae ponds positioned alongside the freeway to be used for processing biofuels and provide green jobs for neighborhoods that are currently some of the most disadvantaged due to their proximity to the freeway.

CO2 rich air could be captured and piped to algae ponds alongside the freeway
CO2 rich air could be captured and piped to algae ponds alongside the freeway

The project was exhibited during the Toward a Just Metropolis conference held at UC Berkely this year in June.

Via inhabitat

18 comments
frankd7
Brilliant. Another good idea: PV on the flat rooftops of commercial warehouse type buildings... reason: large enough collection area that converting DC from PV arrays to AC for grid tie-in can be done cost effectively, especially if multiple buildings are involved (as in an industrial park). Power generation close to point of use is always a good idea -reduces secondary costs, and losses from transmission lines.
TogetherinParis
Sounds a lot like my \'43 bridge idea to cover expressways, insulate the road sheds for sound proofing them in residential areas, and pipe collected air pollution through catalytic converters. Wow, this guy\'s a genius, too! Of course, I only thought of this ten years ago.
Facebook User
Why the authors of such \"brilliant ideas\" never try to calculate economic efficiency of their projects? This particular one has a great windage. Hence it will be expensive in construction and building. I never believe that generated power will even be compared to expenses!
Carol Wilkerson
It seems like a good idea, but when the cars are on the freeway end to end in a traffic jam would that take away from the solar panel\'s effectiveness? Unless...the cars all had solar collectors on their undersides and could then be using the power in that way. :) Some sort of panel to panel power sharing.
Carol Wilkerson
I suppose I should have read the whole article to know that the solar panels would be over the cars. Still, they\'d have to be earthquake proof and not fall on the cars. Nothing is earthquake proof though, is it?
Davey
I think it\'s a good idea but I could see the Los Angeles police department and to a lesser extent the media opposing this. With covered highways the effectiveness of police helicopters is diminished. The media won\'t be able to stalk celebrities with their choppers as easily too. No one would have see OJ in the white ford bronco on TV!
VoiceofReason
What is the cost per mile and how long will it take to start paying for itself? Until these questions can be answered, it\'s a pipe dream.
habakak
Wow...this is weak. So totally ridiculous. Anybody can come up with foolish ideas to generate tons of clean energy. Like building a solar collector in space. Or drilling a hole into the earths core to get to the unlimited supply of heat energy. So weak. Not feasible. At least not now, but this one, most likely never. I guess trying different approaches is a good idea. But ridiculous ideas like this makes the man in the street think it\'s easy to garner green energy.
Darren Johnson
To Habakak: If the idea is so \"weak\", what do you propose? apparently you believe that you have some sort of special insight into the problem, so let\'s hear it. At least that is an idea, not just naysaying any idea someone else comes up with.
Charmaine Lim
I like the idea and design. It caters for various purposes. Amazing.
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