Saturday, March 23, 2013

Alternative thoughts.

The Beanery
12oz Soy I'm not sure what it's called but it's some kind of awesome white chocolate lemon mocha thingy.

I used to do a lot of night driving through the desert and other California terrain.  The darkness of the road used to disturb me.  I used to cringe as the bright lights of the scarce oncoming car would half blind me in the otherwise black night.  I would be tensed even without the opposing traffic, bracing for a coyote, deer, (elk), or some small rodent to come shooting across the road out of the darkness on either side of my headlights.  I've known people who've totaled their cars colliding with an animal or trying to avoid one.  These are hazardous conditions, I would think to myself.  But how to fix it...?

What I came up with on my long drives may or may not be a financially practical idea.  But that should not be our first reaction when it's an idea that could potentially save lives.  Right?  Sure.  Here we go... Instead of towering street lights crisscrossing the landscape like landing strips for very small UFOs, we could have solar-powered, motion-sensor footlights lining these less-used roads.  It would still take some innovation to figure out the most durable, cost-effective design, but also, these footlights would need to be able to "talk" to each other so that when one sensed the motion of the oncoming car or roadside animal, lights further ahead would need to light up as well for the effect to work.  Just having the other ambient light - ahead of the speeding car - to counter the oncoming brights would diminish some of that blinding effect that makes this night driving so dangerous.  The sensors would also have to be sensitive enough and have enough of a range to pick on even small animals before they were too near the road.

This might be too sophisticated a system, though I'm betting it could be figured out pretty cost-effectively.  It might be that footlights that charged during the day and simply stayed illuminated throughout the night would be unobtrusive enough and still be safer than what we currently have now (even if they wouldn't indicate the movement of an approaching animal, you'd have a better chance of seeing it).

But then two more thoughts occurred to me.  Solar power is good for sunnier locales - I have a little solar-powered daisy that dances on my windowsill even on cloudy days - but for colder, darker regions, there might simply not be enough light to generate the power necessary.  And that's when I started thinking about our power-grid.  If we had power lines embedded in or near our roads instead of mostly overhead, we could tap into those lines directly and bleed off just enough to supplement the extra power needed for the illumination.  We know we need to do all this infrastructure rebuilding and power redesigning, this seems like it would be a good time to be thinking about this.

Think of how many miles of road there are in this country.  Imagine if, instead of swathes of solar panel farms, our roads were lined with solar panels that emitted a soft glow after dark.  Think of all the rooftops in even the smallest of towns.  What about using that space for other kinds of power generation as well?  Instead of giant wind turbines on outlying hillsides, micro-wind-turbines, mini-rainwater-mills, lining the perimeters of buildings, incorporated into the design as part of the architecture.  Any single spinning piece couldn't produce that much, but when multiplied... who knows?  The technology of today might not be able to garner much of a yield, but if we start down this path, challenge the thinkers in all the colleges and high school physics classes to find designs to lead us in a new direction, I think it is inevitable that we will find better solutions than what the old fossil fuel technologies could ever produce.

Okay, I'm going to just publish this and cringe later because the coffee house has already closed and I'm finishing this outside in my car... wasting energy to run the CD player and wear down my very old copy of Play just a little bit  more.  Which reminds me... Machete is a great track, and I think it's probably the best representation of Moby's techno and punk sensibilities in a single song.  Just saying.  Carry on.

1 comment:

  1. It also has occurred to me that we could make these micro-spinners musical... People often complain about the sound made by giant wind turbines, if they are located near enough to them. So it made me think that, while these would likely not generate the same kind of noise, we could make a point of designing them to be, at least neutral in their acoustics. However, we may want to explore the scientific correlation between music and human behavior in order to generate a pleasant, calming, but hopefully still unobtrusive, white noise.