Solar Roadways: Paving the way for clean energy

Surface with hexagon shaped glass

The automobile is ever changing. A little over a century ago in 1908 (this isn’t the start of a history lesson, don’t worry), the first affordable car was built, Ford’s Model T. With that came essentially nothing that wasn’t absolutely necessary for the car to run, but in today’s world, cars have everything from lane-departure detection to wi-fi hot spots, the technology is mind-boggling.

So much money and human capital have been directed towards the advancement of vehicles that we overlook what those cars literally drive on at all times, roadways. Roadways have essentially remained the same, but rightfully so. As the old saying goes “if it a’int broke, don’t fix it”, and unless were discussing potholes, roads haven’t had much need for reinventing. However, many other issues arise in our society everyday, and some leave us stumped for a solution; however, re-thinking our roads may provide a very logical solution.

The answer, developed by Scott and Julie Brusaw, is a road surface made entirely out of solar panels. This idea can actually extend past roadways, and has the potential to cover almost any surface paved with tarmac. Besides the obvious advantage of generating electricity from the sun, Scott Bursaw claims that benefits extend far past that:

  • Panels are made from recycled tempered glass that can withstand 100+ metric tons of weight
  • They are sturdier and more chip resistant than outgoing pavement
  • The surface provides more grip for tires
  • Each panel has the ability to melt snow and ice on roadways enduring harsh winter conditions which also leads to less salt use that damages vehicles over time
  • LEDs are placed inside each panel and can collectively be operated to illuminate lanes, parking spaces, road warnings, etc.
  • Other advantages are highlighted in their high-energy and lightly humorous video posted below.

In addition, the new roadways have a “cable corridor” running underneath which replace telephone poles and power lines that currently run the risk of falling which lead to power outages. It also captures storm water, rain, and melted snow, rerouting them to a treatment facility which helps with water pollution. While this is a far stretch, the company estimated that if every roadway in the U.S. was replaced with solar panels, the country would produce 3 times as much energy as it currently uses, all generated cleanly via our galaxy’s biggest star.

If this technology can do everything mentioned above, then it should be a no-brainer to get the ball rolling, right? The answer to that simply comes down to cost. To replace the entire U.S. highway system with solar panels would run a bill of $1 trillion. In addition, the cost to develop the final product, build it, and maintain electronically driven roadways that take a beating from the environment as well as our cars are a scary thought. Also, power and electric companies won’t be happy to hear that there is a solution to eliminate our dependency on them and will be voicing a strong case against implementation. However, the Federal Highway Administration and crowdfunding website Indiegogo showed the Brusaws some faith by collectively granting them over $2 million worth of capital. With an idea so impactful, theres no telling where this can go, trials in their hometown may soon be put to action, then the world can see if the hype delivers.