Is THIS the most Important Invention of the Decade? Solar Roadways Move Forward
July 25, 2011
Some of you may have seen ClimateCrocks previous report on this idea. You can view that video below.
Above, Scott Brusaw presents his idea at a TED conference.
SAGLE, Idaho — A northern Idaho company that aims to transform U.S. highways into a vast, energy-producing network is getting $750,000 from the federal government for the next phase of its project: a solar parking lot.
Solar Roadways of Sagle announced Wednesday it won a Small Business Innovation Research grant for the project from the Federal Highway Administration.
With the money, company founders Scott and Julie Brusaw aim to create a prototype parking lot for testing, but their real dream is for a road system built of 12-foot-by-12-foot solar panels rather than traditional asphalt.
The 12- x 12-foot panels, which each cost $6,900, are designed to be embedded into roads. When shined upon, each panel generates an estimated 7.6 kilowatt hours of power each day. If this electricity could be pumped into the grid, the company predicts that a four-lane, one-mile stretch of road with panels could generate enough power for 500 homes. Although it would be expensive, covering the entire US interstate highway system with the panels could theoretically fulfill the country’s total energy needs. The company estimates that this would take 5 billion panels, but could “produce three times more power than we’ve ever used as a nation – almost enough to power the entire world.”
The Solar Road Panels also contain embedded LED lights that “paint” the road lines from beneath to provide safer nighttime driving. The LEDs could also be programmed to alert drivers of detours or road construction ahead, and can even sense wildlife on the road and warn drivers to slow down. The roads could also contain embedded heating elements in the surface to prevent snow and ice from building up on the road. Further, in the future, fully electric vehicles could recharge along the roadway and in parking lots, making electric cars practical for long trips.
“This feature packed system will become an intelligent highway that will double as a secure, intelligent, decentralized, self-healing power grid which will enable a gradual weaning from fossil fuels,” Solar Roadways stated in a recent press release.
“Think of the rear window of your car,” he says. “There would be a heating element [in each cell] similar to that. In the morning, when you go start your car, it pumps out about 15 amps and cranks it up to about 85 degrees to melt whatever snow and ice has accumulated overnight. If you kept the temperature at about 40 degrees you wouldn’t have to do that because it would not accumulate.”
Brusaw has grand intentions, and a side benefit is that the embedded LED lights could also be used for warning messages to drivers. Brusaw says that a study in the United Kingdom found that LED lane markings could improve nighttime visibility by as much as 70%. But his most lofty goal has to do with electrical power generation.
One example: say you decided to pave the road from Minneapolis to Chicago with a solar roadway. Brusaw says the 410 mile distance would require 721,600 solar panels for the four-lane road. That’s enough to generate about 5.5 billion Watt-hours of electricity per day (based on four hours of good sunlight), or enough power to meet the daily needs of about 175,000 homes.