Stuff We Need: Solar Bridges

Apropos my post from July, where I assert that green energy and infrastructure projects, and the millions of jobs they could provide, are painfully obvious no-brainers, no-brainers that we ignore at our own peril, today I came across this, via CNN:

World’s largest solar bridge project gets underway

A CGI image of how the new solar panels will look on the roof of the new Blackfriars rail station in London

What a brilliant idea…and how very sad that the U.S. isn’t doing projects like this on a grand scale, all over the country, simply because we’re so paralyzed by political and governmental corruption and dysfunction.

When legendarily foggy and rainy London decides to invest in a solar project like this, you know the technology has advanced radically, that despite their sunshine deficit, as the article says, the solar panels will help reduce annual CO2 emissions by more than 500 tons!

Instead, here in the U.S., lobbyists for the dirtiest fossil fuel known to man might be successful in building a pipeline to pump the toxic sludge from Alberta, Canada, through the heartland of America, to the U.S. Gulf Coast, because they have a cozy relationship with the State Department.

Tragically sad.

14 thoughts on “Stuff We Need: Solar Bridges

    • Thanks for liking my post and leaving your comment.

      To answer your question, in my lifetime, I actually HAVE seen the government do many, many things that made sense.

      In fact, I’m a state employee, and I see government do good things that make sense every single day.

      I strongly recommend extreme suspicion of generalized anti-government rhetoric. I know I referred to our federal government as paralyzed by corruption and dysfunction, but I’m not one who believes that the solution is to slash or eliminate government programs.

      We need better government, not less.

  1. This is the dumbest idea I have seen in some time. I thought it was a joke ,but you are serious! Before retirement I was a contractor installing lighting, signs and electrical works on bridges, old and new. A bridge is about the worst place to build anything. Access and traffic control use up tremendous effort and make the work very expensive. Maintenance and repair would be very difficult. Those panels would make the bridge dark and require lighting all day. They could be subject to damage from vehicle collisions and oversize loads and also interfere with cranes and other equipment needed for repairs.

    • Billy, I appreciate your experience and everything, but do you really think that the contractors and those who have oversight responsibility for this project didn’t take all of those very legitimate issues under consideration?

      Given what I do know about permitting processes and engineering requirements, I have a hard time believing that they didn’t account for factors such as oversized loads, lighting, maintenance, aid vehicle access for collision response, etc.

      I guess, if you had proof that they haven’t thought of those things then I’d agree that it is the dumbest idea in a long time, but I don’t buy it.

      Finally, I wonder what you think of the broader concept at work here, that of creatively using available unused surface areas, such as the tops of buildings, the sides of skyscrapers, large unpopulated and largely unvisited and unscenic open spaces, etc., for solar panel installations.

      I personally think it’s a great untapped resource and would love to see it widely taken advantage of. It would have to be done right, keeping all of the safety and maintenance issues that you suggest in mind, of course.

      • I was with you until you started in with “large unpopulated and largely unvisited and unscenic open spaces.” Simply because an area is unvisited by humans is no reason to destroy it – it can provide good habitat for any number of animal species. I lived in Saguache, CO and attended public interest meetings for industrial solar plants slated to go in near the town. None of the possibilities were exactly low impact (even fields of traditional solar panels had plans to be sprayed with herbicides regularly). One solar plant was approved, but is still being held up by the locals, who largely oppose it (http://slvrenewablecommunities.blogspot.com/2010/10/is-tessera-solar-good-for-saguache.html). I’m far from being against solar energy, but I think it’s dangerous to assume that ‘green’ means ‘good for the environment’ rather than ‘a bit more benign than traditional solutions.’

        • M,

          Thanks for your comment! You make some very good points, and I share you concern that, while solar farms are a great idea in some regards, great care should be taken to protect habitats where they are installed. Otherwise it’s a one step up, two steps back scenario.

          Of course I would not advocate destroying relatively unvisited areas, as you put it.

          I think you’d like a post that I wrote back in July on biofuels, where I express great concern about the impacts of growing, harvesting, refining, and distributing what is so casually referred to as a renewable energy source.

          The Dangerous Allure of Biofuels

  2. Fantastic post! What an amazing idea and example of progressive action, from government no less. It’s unfortunate that we are as you say “so paralyzed by political and governmental corruption and dysfunction”, while the world goes by correcting these major shared infrastructure upgrades. It’s been left to the individual grassroots organizations and companies to bring these changes to the U.S. but the government HAS to step up and lead the way; I guess after they get themselves straightened out.

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