When last I checked on my favorite solar boondoggle – perhaps the most overhyped disaster-in-waiting since the Hindenburg Disaster of 1937 – its “launch” was spoiled by a faulty laminating machine. Well, the problem was a little more serious this time – and the Twitter machine exploded with people laughing and pointing at this monstrously disastrous project again.
With its own cult following, Solar Roadways still captures the imaginations of people who live in an alternative universe where these “roads” will power the world’s future. But first, they will have to stop the infernal thing from catching on fire.
Sharp-eyed Australian Iron Maiden fan and “chili head” (we’re not sure we want to know) Brendan MaC noticed an odd black substance coming from the electrical box near the Solar Roadways installation in Sandpoint, Idaho, as he sat glued to the ever-present webcam focused on the project. What followed were two delightful tweets:
“Well,” you might be thinking, “That smoke could be from anything. A forest fire, a BBQ picnic. How can you be sure the fire is coming from the -”
Yeah, the guys in the firefighter uniforms, staring at the electrical box in befuddled amazement, indicate that something there is amiss in the box. And when you go to Standpoint’s “Solar Roadways” webcam, you see this uninspiring message:
A hardware upgrade, yeah, that’s the ticket. I think what they really mean is, “We have to replace all the wires that caught on fire and nearly set the entire electrical box ablaze.” Oy.
Look, it may seem like I am shooting dead horses in a barrel by harping on what a colossal cluster this has been, but the inventers of this technology brought it on themselves. To quote myself:
In 2014 and 2015, everyone was buzzing about the potential of Solar Roadways (and I do mean everyone). Slick marketing videos, combined with an almost unheard of (in the solar industry) social media blitz, had even the most uninitiated solar enthusiast convinced that solar roadways would power our futures.
I started sending all Solar Roadways emails and texts to spam, and blocking their news on my Facebook feed. Friends, family, complete strangers – if they knew I was working in the solar industry, I got the question: Will these work?
Universally, my answer was no – and my skepticism (well, OK, my outright hostility, fueled by the unbelievable hype for this unproven, nonsensical technology – what was the need for this again?) has more than been borne out. Let me quote myself again:
Can Solar Roadways recover from its recent launch fiasco? Only time will tell (but given what little I’ve seen from the technology, I have serious doubts). But the “Shambles in Sandpoint” won’t quickly fade from the public’s memory.
What’s most maddening is that the solar industry is at a critical tipping point in the minds of most consumers — and it didn’t need this overhyped, undertested pipe dream to embolden solar’s opponents to shade the industry with even sharper tongues.
Let’s hope Solar Roadways returns to the inventor’s shed until it can prove it’s actually worthy of the spotlight.
I wish they’d taken my advice.
One more whack at this ridiculous disaster: The knucklehead inventors refuse to take any responsibility for the obvious failures of this technology. Their “About” page is still touting the recognition they got six years ago before they’d actually, you know, completed an actual, functional installation. They blamed the launch failure on other people/inanimate objects (the poor laminator is still in therapy from the abuse it took). So I have a bit of advice from these attention-seeking dreamers:
Stop. Just stop. You’re embarrassing yourselves, poor innocent Standpoint, Idaho (it’s amazing to me the citizens haven’t ridden you out on a rail already), and my beloved solar industry. And until your “roadway” (really more of a “solar plot” or “puddle” or…..”) can do more than power a few LED lights, turn the camera off. Go “dark” again, like you proudly proclaimed you did in 2015 to “focus on the engineering.”
Please. We must stop meeting like this.