Anti-Solar Pundits Delight in Problems with the First Solar Road Rollout, But History is Replete with Premature Gloating

The folks at Solar Roadways had a bad week last week, as the first pilot test of their power-generating panels failed on several levels. But the "gotcha" commentary from status quo bloggers is simply another attempt to hold back history.
Nov 2, 2016 11:00 AM ET

It's a little known fact that Thomas Edison made thousands of unsuccesful attempts to create a working light bulb:

"Before I got through, I tested no fewer than 6,000 vegetable growths, and ransacked the world for the most suitable filament material. The electric light has caused me the greatest amount of study and has required the most elaborate experiments," he wrote. "I was never myself discouraged, or inclined to be hopeless of success. I cannot say the same for all my associates."

ACCORDING TO A YOUNG, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST named Andrew Follett, one attempt is all you get when trying to invent a solar roadway. Fail, and you'll deserve a scathing review about your "epic failure." Thomas Edison would have laughed at such nonsense. Before we accept such smug diatribes against solar entrepeneurs, we need to assess the source of the criticism. Simply because content is printed with a byline on the Internet doesn't mean that it's credible journalism.

Follet is fanatically devoted to defending the status quo. A true believer in so called "American exceptionalism," he's written about how America isn't keeping up with Russia in developing more nuclear plants ("Experts Admit US Nuclear Power Program Way Behind Russia’s"), how fracking wastewater is "96% natural," i.e., not risky to human health, and how "Fracking Has ‘Little To No Impact On Wildlife," and even found it necessary to argue that "Global Warming Doesn't Actually Cause Wars," Oh, and he also dislikes wind energy, penning other "gotcha" pieces such as: "Pricey wind turbine only powered eight homes."

Who or what is The Daily Caller? Google describes it as "a politically conservative American news and opinion website based in Washington, D.C.. It was founded by Tucker Carlson, a libertarian conservative political pundit, and Neil Patel, former adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney."

That's right. Dick Cheney. Halliburton Gas & Oil. Need we say more?

The point here is that there's an anti-solar propaganda machine chugging silently behind the harsh criticism of new, renewable technology such as Solar Roadways. This type of spin is doing no one but the fossil fuel companies a favor. Any innovation that moves the needle in the direction of renewable energy is sorely needed, not just here but around the world. The climate change clock is ticking and it's time to call out these charlatans for what they are--and who they serve.

Yes, the Solar Roadways pilot launch was disappointing. But to suggest that this is the end of the road for the technology, or make smug "I told you so" observations about the idea, is to ignore the greatest technological success stories in American history. You don't cure cancer by giving up the first time one drug fails.

A lot of the success of any innovation has to do with sheer persistence. For years after Dean Kamen invented the Segway, a string of setbacks and bad news almost put the idea to rest permanently. But ultimately the product, for better or worse, found a market among golfers. Now the people-moving gadgets are found all over the world.

The Solar Roadways folks have been open and honest about the disappointment of their first attempt. But let's hope they ignore the Andrew Follets of the world, and look instead to the stubborn persistence of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin and Katherine Burr Blodgett (invented anti-glare glass).