Solar Roadways Making Waves

Solar Roadways: Suck It, Fossil Fuels

Surely, these solar roadways fit nicely into President Barack Obama’s latest climate change initiative, since they provide power to an entire town of buildings and all the vehicles driving around.

Out of that equation entirely: All those fossil fuels like oil, gasoline and coal largely blamed for the greenhouse gases we’ve unleashed on our atmosphere throughout the entire industrial revolution.

This isn’t just an idea. It’s happening, people. And it’s working. The founders of Solar Roadways in Sandpoint, Idaho are currently raising crowd-funding to begin phasing this LED-loaded, load-bearing pavement paneling into the world’s highways and driveways. According to the company’s mission statement:

“An apples-to-apples comparison between asphalt or concrete roads and Solar Roadways is not possible. An asphalt/concrete road is simply a hard surface to drive a vehicle on. A Solar Roadway is a modern modular system with a multitude of uses and features.

“For an accurate cost comparison between current systems and the Solar Roadways system, you’d have to combine the costs of current roads (including snow removal, line repainting, pothole repair, etc.), power plants (and the coal or nuclear material to run them), and power and data delivery systems (power poles and relay stations) to be comparable with the Solar Roadway system, which provides all three.”

Indeed, the company estimates that the technology, when fully implemented in all 50 states, would provide three times the amount of electricity that’s currently burned nationwide. That doesn’t include all the fuel that would be saved by all those vehicles being powered by the road itself. The company even goes so far as to claim:

“The ‘lower 48’ could produce just about enough electricity to supply the entire world. And once again, remember: These calculations are made with very conservative numbers using north Idaho as a reference point, which is one of the worst-case scenarios in the U.S. where latitude is concerned (OK, we have to concede to Alaska!).”

Immediately for towns that institute the system: freeze-proof road surfaces; easy pothole repair; elimination of utility poles; instant lane lighting and even lighted signage on the roads. Down the road: cars, homes, and businesses all powered by the solar power generated by the roads themselves. This could do away with as much as 75 percent of all greenhouse gases.

So what’s the, um, down-side? Initial cost, of course. But the company counters, “What will be the cost if we don’t implement the Solar Roadways?”

There’s a “crazy genius” behind the technology, states TechCrunch. The whole thing left Washington Post to ask if solar roads are “the next thing?” The question should have been: How soon before solar roadways are the next thing?

Solar Roadways founders Scott (electrical engineer) and Julie (psychotherapist) Brusaw say their system works by laying an interlocking grid of hexagon-shaped solar cells made of hardened, bullet-proof glass. They drive bulldozers and heavy emergency vehicles all over them. Using US Federal Highway Administration funding they’ve phased in a system that works and are ready for the big time.

“Even with all these useful features built-in,” Julie Brusaw told the Post, “what’s great is that the surface material is still stronger and more durable than asphalt. Potholes will be a thing of the past and even if any of the panels need to be repaired, at 110 pounds, they can be easily removed and have another installed in its place without causing any traffic delays.”

And talk about return on investment: A part of a parking lot outside the Brusaw lab in Idaho is a solar array that pumps out the equivalent of 3,600 watts of pure fossil fuel-free power.

Here’s as video of the Brusaw’s technology in action:

[Image courtesy of SolarRoadways.org]

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