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Solar panel project costing millions produces enough energy to run one microwave

Our government in action! An Idaho solar panel project that cost $4.3 million (so far) only produces enough energy per day to run one microwave.

On March 29th, the solar road panels generated 0.26 kWh, or less electricity than a single plasma television consumes. On March 31st, the panels generated 1.06 kWh, enough to barely power a single microwave. The panels have been under-performing their expectations due to design flaws, but even if they had worked perfectly they’d have only powered a single water fountain and the lights in a nearby restroom.

Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways has been in development for 6.5 years and received a total of $4.3 million in funding to generate 90 cents worth of electricity.

Obviously, none of this matters. The people who created the project care, and that’s what counts!

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • LocalFluff

    Why does anyone need a microwave oven? You can warm your food by sitting on it. We must have solar power at any cost, or else, ehm, the deluge will come. And that will only be good for surfers. We can certainly agree on not wanting that!

  • Laurie

    Wow. Maybe they should install volunteer-pedaled stationary bikes and hook them up to a generator.

  • wayne

    This is even dumber than I imagined. >These are solar panels embedded into the road.

    Solar FREAKIN Roadways, are they real?

    They received at least $1.5 million from the Department of Transportation in 2 separate grants, and raised $2 million on indiegogo.

    If I ever get a vote– Julie and Scott Brusaw would be rendered to a 3rd world country for special-treatment.

  • PeterF

    The problem with Solar Roadways isn’t that they don’t work or that they are currently hopelessly inefficient, clearly it does work (better than cold fusion which if it had even a fraction of this success would be raking in billions for development). The problem is that the taxpayers are footing the bill for an inventor to develop an idea that is clearly still in its infancy from which he then hopes become wealthy. So what that he raised money from crowdsourcing. Let the buyer beware (I hear there are still slots available to become a one way Mars colonist). I hope he can develop the technology, more power to him. But until he has a viable product, not a single penny more from the public treasury!
    The youtube link explains in great detail why the solar roadways don’t work. Unfortunately the author falls into the trap of not just pointing out the (current) flaws in the concept but he seems to be on a mission to totally destroy any possibility that any such idea could EVER work. So much so that he goes into great detail why any part of the technology that does not work perfectly right NOW can never work because the problems are impossible to overcome, even though some of those hurdles would clearly not be a problem if the system were to be developed beyond its current infancy stage. (not cool)
    True; burying overhead utilities costs 10X more than replacing already existing overhead lines, but the cost to install buried utilities is only fractionally more when the road is already being torn up and will be recouped in just a few years when the maintenance savings is factored in.
    True; long distance high tension transmission lines are VERY expensive and lose a great deal of the energy due to line loss. But they are an artifact of the NIMBY way we produce and distribute electricity currently. Long distance transmission would be obsolete if the power is being generated in your driveway.
    True; cobblestone roads suck. but like vacuum tubes, the development of that road technology virtually ceased when the cheaper technology of dumping the hazardous waste byproduct of the oil refineries on the nations roads was adopted. (the Soviets were unable to develop transistors so they stuck to vacuum tubes, when Victor Belenko defected with his MIG-25 in 1976 we were shocked to discover that the vacuum tube based avionics in the aircraft were almost as efficient as our own transistor based systems but had the added natural benefit of being inherently EMP hardened.)
    True; this demonstration system costs WAY too much and is hopelessly inefficient, it can NEVER work. also trains can’t run faster than 25 mph or all the air will be sucked out. heavier-than-air flight is impossible. etc.. etc.. etc..

    Truth be told, this is just an idea to improve the efficiency of the use of 25,000 square miles of otherwise previously valuable, mostly arable land. Smarmy criticism doesn’t make it a bad idea. Perhaps the guy with the initial idea doesn’t have the ability to develop it further but that doesn’t mean that future breakthroughs won’t happen. Perhaps in a generation or two, some bright college dropout will combine this idea with new technology and new materials and become the next Bill Gates?

  • Vladislaw

    Kind of a disingenious article … Like saying my 1′ square solar panel for recharging my phone battery isn’t worth it because it can not power my house.

  • LocalFluff

    Talking about bad ideas, will the SLS and Orion disaster be followed up with even larger scale meaningless waste? NASA seems to envision a “Deep Space Gateway” (DSG) in Lunar orbit, in order to pretend to get to Mars. I cannot imagine any kind of rational justification for that, if it were honestly meant. I’m looking forward to Robert Zubrin’s angry comment on it! The only value that comes out of this stupid tax money madness is making jokes or abreactions about it, and that’s worth less than a penny on the dollar.

    Like SLS/Orion is replacing the reusable Shuttle with an expendable system, maybe “DSG” will replace the permanently crewed space station with one that is only occasionally crewed? In order to purposefully keep on degrading human space flight capacities. While space radiation isn’t as deadly as some fear, it is not helpful to keep people up there above the protection of LEO. And what does the Moon have got to do with Mars? Now the Moon is between us and Mars, now it isn’t, now it is, now… I don’t see any sanity with a “DSG”. Hopefully this is just talk and whoever will become the next NASA administrator will start doing something rational about HSF, building on the commercial space successes. Well, one is at least allowed to dream.

  • LocalFluff

    My slow brain now realizes that NASA’s Deeps Space Gateway vision can only serve the purpose of creating an artificial, and useless, “market” for the SLS/Orion. Russia and commercials are restrained to LEO, that’s the range they are made and paid to optimize for. Crew in Lunar orbit is beyond their capabilities, I think.

    DSG might be great for going to the Lunar surface, but what has Mars got to do with it?? I think this is a dangerous idea, or in the best case an idea that will make everyone finally lose all hope in governmental HSF. NASA has been disappointing since the election. Launching some congressmen on the first untested SLS/Orion is the only good idea yet (though Trump won’t get rid of his new friend “lyin’ Ted” that easy).

  • LocalFluff

    When you thought that space solar power was the worst idea in that already crazy industry, here comes road solar power! What next? Subsurface solar power?

  • wayne

    If we modify the deflector array to induce a subspace tachyon burst in the upper harmonic range, we could route the extra power through the upper plasma conduits on the docking pylon thus creating an inverse sub-space manifold through fluidic-space, but the variance is very tight and the Heisenberg compensator & Flux Capacitor, could, theoretically, implode into a singularity & ignite the atmosphere.
    (If we could however, Save Just One Child, from Borg assimilation, it would be all worth it.”

    Ferengi Rules of Acquisition (complete list)

    #1- “Once you have there money, you never give it back.”

  • Edward

    Well, Dr. Emmett Brown, I guess the world of Star Trek is coming to a roadway near us.

    As with most things, mass production would bring down the cost, if this technology and its cost is what we want to go with.

    I am sorry for giving up early on the video of the solar roads, but the critic did not bother to do homework before criticizing. He reports as though the glass is the usual widow glass that we all know and love, but it is clear (no pun intended) that it is not. Early on, the video assumes that water cannot drain away, when it is clear that the design does a better job of drainage than asphalt does. The video assumes that there is poor traction when it is clear that the inventors have worked on that problem. How much actual traction is available has not been investigated by the makers of the video. At this point I gave up on it.

    I am not as impressed when conclusions are made based upon assumptions rather than knowledge, research, and test.

    I still do not know whether these solar roadways are a good idea, but I do not know enough to say that they are not a good idea. I have several questions about them, and they still seem rather expensive.

  • wayne

    Edward– Good stuff.
    While I do try to reference reasonable video-clips, I was a bit hasty with that particular one, in that it’s not the best anti solar Freakin’ roadway videos I encountered.
    -I did stumble across some (limited) harder science objections, vis-a-vie energy required to melt snow, that would probably sway you more.

    I will retract the phrase “dumb idea,” but would maintain this is an impractical idea. I know it’s verboten to rain on other peoples parades, but we live in a world of scarcity and our Fed govt is $20 trillion in debt.
    Not a total Scrooge McDuck–
    -To the extent this guy doesn’t feed off the Federal trough, he can do whatever he pleases in his pole barn. As far as fundraising, as long as he’s not committing fraud, I have no problem.
    -Not a Civil Engineer by trade, but I am inordinately familiar with roads (& sewers), he’s tackling some obstacles that just aren’t really economically viable to surmount at this time, all things remaining equal, in my opinion.

  • Edward

    I suspect that if someone were to try this on real roads, the better places to start would be deserts and places where there are few cloudy days. As you suggested, snowy areas may not ever be suitable; think of the damage inflicted by the snowplows.

    Solar power plants have a difficult time being economically viable. I visited one about 15 years ago, and they didn’t start up their older “farm” until after some wispy upper layer clouds passed by. Their newer section was improved enough to get enough energy even through the very thin clouds, and it ran the whole time I was there. Technology developments may make the road-as-solar-panel idea as feasible as the rooftop solar panels are today, but that may not help on roads near skyscrapers.

  • Steve Earle

    wayne said:
    “….If we modify the deflector array to induce a subspace tachyon burst in the upper harmonic range, we could route the extra power through the upper plasma conduits on the docking pylon thus creating an inverse sub-space manifold through fluidic-space, but the variance is very tight and the Heisenberg compensator & Flux Capacitor, could, theoretically, implode into a singularity & ignite the atmosphere….”

    HA! Perfect example of Trek Techno Babble (TM) (and as Edward noted, a little Dr. Brown as well ;-)

    “Captain, we’ve just detected a spatial anomaly 50 thousand kilometers off the port bow….” LOL

    wayne said:
    “…..I know it’s verboten to rain on other peoples parades, but we live in a world of scarcity and our Fed govt is $20 trillion in debt….”

    Again, perfectly stated and also perfectly ignored by those afflicted with OPM Syndrome (Other People’s Money)…

  • wayne

    you have to check out–

    “The Turbo Encabulator™” (the Original)

  • Commodude

    Wayne, love that one, one of the national techs uses it as a demonstrator…..remember, here’s what you guys sound like to management.

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