Solar Roadways is the brainchild of Idahoans Scott and Julie Brusaw.
With an airplane’s black box in mind, the couple started mulling over the possibility of creating a solar powered super-strong case that could house sensitive electronics. They explored the idea of embedding solar cells to store energy inside the case, LEDs to illuminate the road lines and heating elements to resist ice and snow — soon after, the concept of Solar Roadways was born.
The couple’s proposal calls for the traditional petroleum-based asphalt highways to be replaced with a system of structurally-engineered solar panels. These would act as a massive energy generator that could feed the grid during daytime. They would also recharge electric vehicles while moving, thus helping to reduce greenhouse emissions drastically.
“Our original intent was to help solve the climate crisis,” says Brusaw. “We learned that the U.S. had over 72,000 square kilometers of asphalt and concrete surfaces exposed to the sun. If we could cover them with our solar road panels, then we could produce over three times the amount of energy that we use as a nation — that’s using clean, renewable energy instead of coal.”
Great idea, but can it be made cheaply enough to be cost-effective? And would the manufacturing process counteract the gains by requiring more energy and creating more pollutants than fossil fuels?