Hand-held communications devices, space stations and men walking on the moon. Each of these was pure fantasy at one time in history. So, why not generating power from our roadways?
If a couple from Idaho have their way, the idea is about to become not just fantasy but reality. Solar Roadways, created by Julie and Scott Brusaw, is exploring the feasibility of building drivable roads using solar panels.
With the help of private funding and two phases of funding from the Federal Highway Administration, they now have a working product/prototype – paving the 12’ by 28’ parking lot outside their electronics lab with hexagon shaped solar panels.
Built from textured impact resistant glass, the prototype has been load tested without issue at 250,000 pounds. The prototype also includes heating elements to help clear snow and ice as well as LED lighting for lane markings.
On April 21, the Brusaws started an Indiegogo campaign to raise one million dollars to help commercialize their product. The hugely successful campaign, now closed, raised $2,200,341 in just two months. However, they are still accepting donations through their web site. Solar Roadways was recently invited to the White House’s first Maker Faire, a collection of innovators and entrepreneurs, pushing the envelope of design.
Based on the success of the prototype, the Brusaws have demonstrated that generating power from our roadways could be reality. Customers are already lining up, eagerly awaiting the soon-to-be commercially available product.
There are still a number of significant political, technical, and financial challenges to be overcome before their vision can join cell phones and space flights as a part of everyday life. One such challenge would be cars, bridges, and shadows that would limit the amount of energy collected by roadway solar panels, making solar energy collection less efficient (than open roads).
Snow plow equipment, frequently used in certain parts of the country, poses another challenge. Ideally, more testing needs to be done to fully understand the impact of heavy metal blades used by snow plows. The technology may not be suited for every mile of road in the country, but it doesn’t need it to be. Some calculations indicate that if we resurfaced all the roads in America with their solar panels, it would generate approximately three times the nation’s electric need. Additionally, this technology could also be used to pave bike paths, sidewalks, and parking lots.
Getting electrical power from our road systems is both an intriguing idea and a distinct possibility for the near future – assuming we can address and overcome the implementation cost hurdle. If you would like to take an active part in turning fantasy into reality, visit Solar Roadways to learn more.
Feature image courtesy of Solar Roadways