[Image above] Prototype of Solar Roadways’ solar panel road pavers. Credit: Scott Brusaw; YouTube
Looks like the “road to cleaner energy solutions” could be paved with solar panels.
Scott Brusaw, an electrical engineer from Idaho, has believed this for a long time. Brusaw’s company, Solar Roadways, has been on a mission since 2014 to replace U.S. roads with solar panels and create a power grid on what is currently nothing but miles and miles of static pavement.
And in June 2014, Solar Roadways’ crowdfunding campaign to bring this nationwide drivable power grid raised $2.2 million in just two months—twice as much as Brusaw expected when he launched his dream into collective eco-consciousness. At the time, Forbes reported that Brusaw’s was the most popular campaign ever on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, with 48,000 backers from all 50 U.S. states and 165 countries across the globe.
“It’s been humbling,” Brusaw told Yahoo News in June 2014. “Really, really humbling.”
The solar roadway concept clearly struck a nerve with like-minded folks who are on board with clean-energy solutions. Brusaw’s fun, seven-minute video produced to drum up interest for the 2014 crowdfunding campaign—aptly titled “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways!”—has been viewed nearly 22 million times to date.
“At the end of this year, we’ll have a finished product,” Brusaw told Yahoo News in June 2014. “It’s not going to happen overnight—there’s a learning curve here. Once we’re convinced the final product works in a parking lot, we’ll try residential roads. Then, eventually, the fast lane of a highway.”
And that finished product, according to Brusaw, includes solar panels encased in double-layered, bomb-resistant, bulletproof glass capable of withstanding 250,000 pounds and that would be able to generate three times the electricity currently used in the United States. Plus, it can prevent accidents by melting snow and ice, serve as a receptacle to collect excess storm water, and slash emissions up to 75%.
Two years later, Brusaw’s making good on his promises.
Missouri’s Department of Transportation plans to install a test version of Solar Roadways’ solar road tiles in a sidewalk at the Historic Route 66 welcome center in Conway, Mo., to see if the technology is fit for use on regular streets, according to a recent article in the News Tribune (Jefferson City, Mo.). Local pedestrians can expect to see the solar road tiles put to the test by the end of this year.
The hope is that the solar pavers will power many of the welcome center’s electricity needs in the short term—but also lead to new sources of revenue long term.
“Solar roadways can hopefully create new revenue streams,” Tom Blair, assistant district engineer in MoDOT’s St. Louis area district, tells the News Tribune.
Blair also heads up MoDOT’s Road to Tomorrow, an initiative that aims to rebuild U.S. highways in green, sustainable ways.
And solar isn’t the only option when it comes to smarter, more sustainable roadways.
Integrated Roadways (Kansas City, Mo.) is pioneering its own “smart concrete” to help build smarter, safer, and connected roads.
What do you think about the future of U.S. roadways and the next-generation clean power grid? Contribute to the discussion in the comments!