When you think of solar power a few things may come to mind. First might be that solar energy is a completely renewable source. Even if it is raining, we can always count on the sun showing up the next day. Next might be how we harness the sun’s energy through different technology. You may be picturing solar panels on a roof or panels mounted on the ground. Have you ever once thought of those panels being capable of lighting up our roadways? Well a small US-based company called Solar Roadways has and they believe a solar road surface has the potential to produce more renewable energy than what the entire country uses.
Solar Roadways was started by Scott and Julie Brusaw in 2006 developing hexagonal glass solar panels studded with LED lights. These panels could be installed on a variety of surfaces such as pavements, roads and playgrounds. In winter conditions, these panels are ideal because of their heating elements to melt ice and snow. The LEDS can also adequately light road lines and signs. If you’re not impressed yet, the surface could also be used to charge electric vehicles as oppose to fossil fuels. The Solar Roadways team discovered that car headlights can produce energy in the panels, so cars driving at night would be producing some electricity.
You may be questioning the strength and durability of a glass surface, but the prototypes have been tested and were found to be able to withstand the heaviest trucks. These panels were produced and constructed using 10 percent of recycled glass.
According to the team, there’s approximately 31,000 square miles of usable surfaces in the United States. If all of these were covered, the Solar Roadways system could produce over three times the electricity that is used by the entire country. This has the potential to a huge decrease in dependence on foreign oil, as well as a cut in CO2 emissions.
The Brusaw couple launched a campaign in April with an attention-grabbing Youtube video. In just one month, the seven-minute video was viewed more than 15 million times.
“It’s very humbling that people all around the world are getting behind this,” said Scott Brusaw. “We’ve had people call from all over the world to tell us, ‘When you build the first parking lots, let us know because we’ll fly there just to say we’ve walked on it.’ It’ll bring a crowd to town.”
Announced in June, the company raised $2 million. They hope to hire a staff of at least six engineers and plan to install their first public solar panels in Sandpoint, Idaho, where the Brusaws live. The pilot entails installing the panels in sidewalks and the parking lot of a welcome center. Brusaw hopes to begin installation next spring and then watch a year to see how the panels do.
The $2 million raised indicates that people are aware of the benefits of going solar and see it as money well spent. However, Brusaw has no estimate of how much these roadways will cost. But, none the less, Solar Roadways are onto something big. It’s only a matter of time until your morning commute and midnight drive become a bit more exciting.