Julie and Scott Brusaw - Complex Cortex Designs © 2014

Solar roadways: an American dream

Posted on 27 June 2014.

When a couple from Idaho ended up in the solar-panel business, they set out to change things from the ground up with a plan to turn US roads into solar arrays.

The solar panels could turn 31,251 square kilometers of roadways and parking lots in the United States into a new source of power generation.

Sand Point lies deep in the Rockies. Previously known for its caribou hunting, the place will now be associated with the amazing concept of solar roadways. The story began in 2006 when a couple called the Brusaws—Scott, a broad-shouldered, bearded electrical engineer, and his wife, Julie, a curly-haired blonde who made a living as a marriage counsellor—quietly began developing a next-generation solar panel in their garage. Unlike the fragile solar arrays perched on the roofs of houses, however, their prototype is made of extremely strong, tempered glass able to withstand any amount of pounding and ensures the utmost safety. The new material has a texture similar to that of asphalt, on which trucks of 110 metric tons or more do not even make a dent. And the innovation does not end there: sandwiched between the photovoltaic cell and the glass, 128 LEDs provide a range of lighting options in five colors. Make no mistake, the hexagonal module is far from being some gadget dreamt up by a couple with too much time on their hands: the figures speak for themselves. The Brusaws have proven that the system could generate some 13,385 billion kWh, which is three times more electricity than the United States currently produces... From New York to Los Angeles, there is no shortage of asphalt stretching out across America's sun-kissed land: the country has a total of 31,251 square kilometers of roadways and parking lots that could potentially be turned into solar arrays, reducing US greenhouse gas emissions by 75%. The argument is convincing: the Solar Roadways project already has the backing of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which manages US roads, and more recently attracted the attentions of Google...

SolarRoad Complex Cortex Designs © 2014
SolarRoad Complex Cortex Designs © 2014

A bright future ahead

Route-66 buffs need not worry. Uncle Sam's road trips still have a long future ahead of them, albeit with a few changes in store – such as the prospect of electric cars charging by the side of the road – finally putting an end to the reign of the gasoline pump. Solar roadways would also do away with snow tires: when in use, the cells provide a gentle source of heat, which, coupled with an integrated de-icing system, could prevent snowdrifts, black ice and accidents. Imagine an age of brightly colored roads and parking lots that could even be turned into nightclubs by using the integrated LEDs to change the color of ground markings. Some still call the idea crazy but others have hailed it as ingenious. The concept became the most popular campaign ever on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, raising more than $1.6 million. After over a decade of testing, the Brusaws have lit up our imagination with their drive to light up our roads...

Find out more:

- The project website
- The crowdfunding page to support the project
- The Solar Roadways Facebook page
- The Solar Roadways Twitter account