January is the time in Britain when gritter lorries are sent out across Britain to address the hazards caused by icy roads. However, if roads had underground heating it would make gritter lorries a thing of the past.
The principle of heated roads and surfaces is not new. Some airports have heated runways to allow the operation to continue during freezing conditions.The idea of surface heating is becoming commonplace in modern homes, where the central heating pipes are located under the floors so heat can naturally rise through the room.
Every modern football pitch has an underground heating system which prevents frozen pitches. These are usually electrically-powered and heat pipes which keep the turf just warm enough to stay above freezing. However, geothermal energy involves drawing heat which naturally occurs in the ground, and it is pumped towards the surface to prevent freezing.
Underground Heating vs Gritter Lorries
At present, when the roads are liable to freezing, local councils send gritter lorries to the A and B roads. This works well at keeping the main roads safe, but relies on resources such as vehicles, personnel and of course the ‘grit’ itself. The grit can be corrosive to vehicles though, and it relies on a good supply of rock salt. The amount needed is of course dependent on the unpredictable weather. If the local council hoards more than the required amount then this could be wasteful. However, a particularly harsh winter may require several days of repeated application in order to keep the roads safe.
Heated roads would of course rely on a huge project of planning and installation, but once they are in place it would just be a case of activating the heating system when required. The only resource needed to operate going forward, would be someone to activate the heating. No fuel to
When heated roads are discussed, it is often assumed that they would run on the electricity feed that powers street lighting and electronic signage. However, as the road surface only needs to be warm enough to prevent freezing, the best two options would be ground source or solar power.