Born out of a conversation while gardening, Scott and Julie Brusaw, engineering power couple and founders of Solar Roadways Incorporated, have come up with the idea of laying solar panels on United States’ highways.
According to the Brusaws, a significant way to reduce dependence on fossil fuels would be to make solar energy, a renewable resource, more accessible and convenient to the public. The Brusaws developed the solar roadway panel in an attempt to accomplish this goal.
Partially made of recycled materials, the panel has a surface layer of strong textured glass, tested to meet all impact, load, and traction requirements, allowing vehicles of any size to drive over it.
Placed inside the panel is a series of LED lights that can be programmed into any design and can function for a variety of uses, including highway lanes, customizable recreational courts, and airplane landing strips.
The panels are also pressure-sensitive, meaning that if a tree should fall on the road or an animal was to cross, the panel can warn drivers to slow down via LED text. Up north, when heavy snows fall, the panels use energy they collect to melt the snow, making the roads safer and eliminating the need to use snow plows to clear the road.
Should the panels be installed, two underground channels would run alongside the road. One panel would house electrical cables – which include power lines, data lines, and high speed internet – thus replacing the need for telephone poles and hanging wires, which can be damaged during storms and are a potential danger when severed.
The other channel contains and filters runoff storm waters and melted snow, moving them either to a treatment center or treating them onsite, greatly decreasing the amount of pollution that enters the soil and oceans.
It has been estimated by the company that if all of the United States roadways were converted into solar panel roadways, the energy collected would reach three times as much energy as the country currently uses.
This could bring substantial revenue into the United States, possibly lowering the national debt, along with providing thousands of jobs for the construction and maintenance of these roads. These solar roadway panels not only have an environmental benefit, but also an economic one.
Funded by the Small Business Innovation Research grant from the Department of Transportation, the Brusaws have built the first ever Solar Roadways prototype parking lot. The Brusaws envision the project to begin at the private and local sectors of the community, on sidewalks, in shopping center parking lots, and eventually onto residential streets and highways.
“We anticipate a learning curve, and the need to tweak our technology,” Scott Brusaw said, “We don’t want to learn our lessons on the fast lane of a highway!”
The $750,000 grant, however, only funds so far as the building of the prototype, so in April 2014, the company launched its own Indiegogo campaign, where individuals interested in the technology donated money to fund the company and production processes. When the campaign closed in June, it had raised a staggering 2.2 million dollars, more than doubling its original one million dollar goal.
The company is currently continuing to design and perfect their technology in the hopes of launching its first public installation in the spring of 2015.