FromQuarkstoQuasars

Paving the Way for Solar Roads in the US:

Jolene CreightonMay 14th 2014

In case you didn’t know, the use of fossil fuels is a bit of a problem. First, these resources are not sustainable. The Earth may have an overwhelming amount of fossil fuels buried beneath its surface, but the supply is not infinite. No matter how much we try and conserve it, eventually we are going to run out. More importantly, the use of fossil fuels contributes to global warming, smog, and other forms of environmental pollution. If that’s not enough, harvesting these resources is often a dangerous process, both for individual workers and nations at large (how many wars have been fought in the name of oil?). So to be blunt, getting away from fossil fuels is only a good thing, and Solar Roadways is one company working hard to make that happen….but it remains unclear whether or not the technology is really viable, but more on that later.

Solar Roadways is an organization that hopes to change the way that individuals in the United States travel. Ultimately, they want to cover every square inch of roads in the U.S. in thick LED-lit glass solar panels, which will be used for a number of different things. Solar Roadways claims that their hexagonal solar panels will be able to generate enough power to light the road, melt snow, prevent ice buildup, and even power our cities. This may sound rather far-fetched; however, the founders, Scott and Julie Brusaw, have already created a prototype in a parking lot outside their lab in Idaho.

And guess what? It works. It’s tiny, but it works. 

WATCH: TED Talk on Solar Roads

The Brusaws discuss how far they have come, asserting, “In 2009, we received a contract from the Federal Highway Administration to build the first ever Solar Road Panel prototype. During the course of its construction, we learned many lessons and discovered new and better ways to approach this project.”

The Brusaws assert that the roads would create enough power that there would be vast swaths of energy leftover. This energy could be used to help make out homes and cities more sustainable. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this proposal is that, if rest stops or parking lots are paved with the solar panels, then they could offer charging stations for electric cars, which would make traveling from A to B exceedingly easy along highways and make electric cars more economical. If all goes according to plan, the Brusaw’s think that individuals who use electric cars might be able to use the LED panels to charge their cars as they travel, meaning that drivers would never have to stop (unless they want to). 

 Before you worry too much about using glass as a roadway, the roads will be able to withstand fully-loaded trucks driving over them, and if one panel breaks, the panels surrounding it would alert workers and give them the exact location of the malfunction. These roads will also never develop any potholes.

But that said, there are some issues with torque. Want to drive across the tile? Great. Want to turn on it? That’s super not good. Ultimately, the rotational force can cause serious issues and damage. Then, there is the fact that they are laying flat, instead of following the Sun. This makes the panels rather inefficient.

Of course, this project is still in its early stages, and the company is currently working trying to raise 1 million dollars so that they can do more testing and create a larger scale of their product, such as paving local roads and parking lots. Nevertheless, it is exciting to consider the possibility and get an idea of what the world of tomorrow might look like. 

Watch the video for the Indiegogo campaign below:

 

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