Wattway – The Results Are In

Wattway a solar power road
Photo by Brice Robert via Colas

The Wattway is a 1 kilometer stretch of road built in 2016 in France. It was expected to generate 790 killowatt hours per day (power for 5,000 households). Well, after three years of real world use, the results are in for the $5.5M project.

Wattway, A Failure But We Learned

The road failed miserably in many respects. The resin coating creates a lot of noise at speed and it also does not hold up over time, especially with tractors. To quote Car and Driver:

The noise and poor upkeep aren’t the only problems facing the Wattway. Through shoddy engineering, the Wattway isn’t even generating the electricity it promised to deliver. In 2016, the builders promised it would power 5000 households.

Car and Driver

What is our lesson here? First, solar panels are best when pointed directly at the sun. A flat, stationary application like a road simple is not optimal. Solar panels belong on the roof. Likewise, transportation corridors should use material appropriate to traction and minimize noise levels.

The 1 kilometer stretch could better be suited as a multi-modal transportation corridor. A transportation corridor must be sensitive to alternatives to the car like bicycles and public transportation. So, when innovating, we need to be conscious of the details of the design. Do the materials in the proposal actually work as intended?

But, we also must commend Colas for their courage and determination to try something new. While many hoped to be writing of its success, the attempt at solving a problem gives others the foundation to keep moving forward. Trial and error is a perfectly acceptable method for solving problems as long as the error isn’t making climate change too much worse. Work will continue on cheaply maintained alternative roads, energy production, and solving our climate change issues.

We are on the right journey and we are learning by doing.

Economic Gardening: A Path to Community Stability

economic gardening is the key to a stable economy in every community

We first came across the term economic gardening via the Strong Towns podcast. The discussion was centered around Littleton, Colorado and their quest to build “a great community in which to live, work and play.” In 1987, “missile manufacturer Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin) cut its workforce in half[.] Which resulted in 7,500 lost jobs and 1 million square feet of vacant real estate. In response, Chris Gibbons, Littleton’s director of business and industry affairs, began to implement his version of Economic Gardening, working with local companies to create new jobs in lieu of recruiting, incentives or tax rebates. Over the next two decades Littleton more than doubled jobs… and tripled sales tax revenue.

Economic Gardening 101

Economic Gardening comes from the Edward Lowe Foundation. It is an economic concept which builds support for “second stage” companies which may need a little more time to reach their maturity. Investing in these companies sets an economic foundation within the community by creating jobs and access to external markets, which brings money into the community. While it does take time for the benefits to truly come to fruition, the long-term payoff for the community is profound. To read more about economic gardening, follow this link.

The Edward Lowe program has expanded into the National Center for Economic Gardening with partnerships in various states. Companies can apply for assistance via this website. These programs seek to provide the following assistance:

Identify market trends, potential competitors and unknown resources.

Map geographic areas for targeted marketing.

Raise visibility in search engine results and increased web traffic.

Track websites, blogs and online communities to better understand competitors and current and potential customers.

Make informed decisions on core strategies and the business model.

Will economic gardening work in your town? Yes. First, do your research by following the links in this post. Second, find out if an economic gardening center exists in your state by following this link. If your state does not have a program, seek out the companies in your community which are second stage. Help them get engaged in the community and help others understand the importance of local business. Lastly, understand your community’s economic plan and reach out to your elected officials, help them understand how important it is to invest in local business. Local business is far more important than bringing in outside business.

Addressing Climate Change

Addressing Climate Change

Our weather is getting more dramatic, severe, and localized. Whether you believe this is due to a natural cycle in earth’s weather behavior or is driven by human behavior like burning fossil fuels, this weather is a reality. While we can’t stop the weather from changing, we must learn to live with it better, we must start addressing climate change.

Hundreds of tornadoes in Oklahoma and Missouri, torrential rainfall in California, high winds in Texas, and prolonged winter in Colorado are all examples of how our climate has changed dramatically in the last few years. We can’t escape it. How do we live with it?

First, our ancient ancestors who roamed the earth thousands and thousands or years ago were nomadic. When the weather got rough, they just picked up and moved to the better climate. However, modern man has become rather sedentary. In fact, the concept of land ownership means we can’t simply pack up and move. If we did, we could be trespassing our squatting on other people’s land.

Address Climate Change?

First, we need to better predict the weather. The models used over the past few decades no longer predict weather with accuracy in time to warn residents. It is our opinion, we need to pour money into data science and meteorology and develop new models to predict the weather more accurately and at longer forecast times.

Second, we need to help residents deal with the weather. What solutions can we deploy to control flooding? Dikes? Dredge deeper rivers? We also need to make sure residents have a place to go to shelter from tornadoes. We need to fund updating existing tornado shelters and map out the most optimal locations for new ones.

Finally, we have to help them rebuild. However, we can’t rebuild a structure in the same place which will also be prone to destruction by a tornado. We need to make structures in the tornado belt as strong as possible, as tornado resistant as possible and provide the funds to make it happen. Perhaps, more ideally, provide assistance so residents can relocate to a safer area if they choose.

While eventually we might all end up living in dome cities, the transition from today to a sustainable tomorrow is the conversation we need to have now. Dome cities are something out of a scifi flick, but in reality, they just might save us.

For more information on climate change and your impact, spend a little time reading up on the content at What’s Your Impact? It is a site with great details on green house gases and even the impact of methane.

Learning to live with climate change is a huge topic with many dimensions, controversial decisions, and bares even more financial cost. Addressing climate change starts with a conversation at the regional level. A start to alleviate the damage climate change can do to our local economies and residents’ lives.

The Regional Transition .Org Mission

Regional Transition .Org is a nonprofit for regional solutions

At Regional Transition, we believe the answer to many issues facing our growing society are found at the regional level, not the national level.

Yup, that means we can solve climate change, homelessness, pollution, and gap in wages, to name a few issues, by recognizing regional differences and developing regional solutions.

Because of differing cultural values, differing climates, and differing resources throughout each state and urban area of the United States, we must recognize one national solution will never be a best fit for everyone. So let the people who know their state, county, city or town the best, solve their own problems.

A few topics Regional Transition takes a stance on:

  1. The Federal Government is too big. State rights must be recognized. The Federal should only help with common protection.
  2. Social media has enabled a communications war. We need to reign in the digital spread of misinformation while protecting free speech.
  3. Electric vehicles are not the long-term answer to reducing pollution. In fact, the more batteries we develop, the more trouble we will be in in a few years. We must transition away from a car based society.
  4. Capitalism does not have the best interest of the country in mind. We must develop an economy which allows growth, but also works in the interest of all citizens.
  5. Many more topics to discuss… stay tuned for more.

We welcome your support on one, two, or more issues. We seek to promote regional solutions to the issues we face. National solutions are not the best for every community. Let’s recognize the regional beauty together.