Rajib Mallick, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (pronounced "Wuster" or "Wista," depending on where you're from), took the symposium as an opportunity to present a concept he's been working on for the past two years with Novotech, Inc., an infrared and semiconductor technology company. Using an existing parking lot or asphalt surface, the new system would be installed during a resurfacing. A special piping network runs through the new pavement and as cool water runs through it, the water is heated and can be used for electricity generation. "The system cost is around $20-$50 per square meter and has the capability to generate up to 800 kilowatt hours a day six months a year in New England," Mallick says.
Since so many parking lots and roadways already exist, Mallick expects the solar collector costs to be orders of magnitude lower than the cost to produce traditional solar cells. Lab tests showed that the system can reduce the heat island effect commonly found in urban areas. Summer is quickly fading now, but I haven't forgotten the blistering heat radiating from New York City's streets. Next up for Mallick and his team: securing more funding and getting the concept off the ground. Or, rather, in the ground.