The vast majority of people on earth are aware of the need for a sensible and affordable alternative energy source that can help to take down pollution. The idea of a solar panel roadway had been floating around for years, but it’s finally been put to the test for the first time in the United States. To put it lightly, things didn’t exactly go as planned. It was a complete and total failure.

In Idaho, a prototype solar roadway was supposed to represent the future of green energy, but because of a host of technical issues, it shows just how far off we are from realizing that specific future. Screenshots taken from the roadway’s official webcam show, showing smoke coming out of a nearby electric box indicates something has gone wrong. As firefighters arrived, the solar project’s official website had to post a statement saying “The Solar Roadways electrical system is currently undergoing maintenance. Please check back late next week.” This isn’t the first of their problems, the prototype has had a series of incredible technical mishaps.


The six and a half year development has had about $3.9 million pumped into it, only to have disastrously unsuccessful results. Of the panels for the roadway, 25 out of 30 that were installed had broken in less than a week after they were installed. Despite what they were intended for, the prototype of the solar “road” can’t even be driven on. Of what was there, the panels hadn’t generated any electricity. Seventy-five percent of the panels were already broken before they even had a chance to be installed, mostly because of manufacturing errors.


The panels that were to be used to make a “solar footpath” was just as unsuccessful, as 18 out of 30 of them were broken upon arrival. After that, four more panels failed because of rain, leaving only five to function thereafter. The engineering issues, drainage problems, and fundamental design flaws are mainly to blame for the massive failure of this project. Just about every single promise made on this project has just about fallen through.

Had everything gone to plan, the panels would have powered one water fountain and the lights of a restroom. More than $500,000 was granted to the project, covering installation costs. In addition to that, $750,000 in grants was allocated from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund the research, along with another pair of grants worth a total of $850,000. Not only that, but the project, “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways managed to raise another $2.2 million in crowd-funding. This was all after several scientists had already publically publicly shared their doubts about the idea.


A lot of scientists posed quite a few concerns about the concept of solar panel roadways, saying they wouldn’t be capable of serving as a road for long. The main issue with solar road panels would be the significant amount of time they would spend not absorbing the sun’s rays. The panels on the road cannot tilt throughout the day to follow the sun, nor can they get any light if they’re covered up by snow, rain, or any other type of light blocking weather. Aside from the weather, there’s a good chance that the large amount of cars on the road throughout the day will block the road from getting enough light. The plan for the solar panels was a good idea, but it was very poorly executed. Perhaps with further research, better engineering, and a better idea for infrastructure, the plan can truly come together with marked success.