A truly ingenious concept, solar panel roadways promise to completely transform the world's road networks by making streets and highways digital, intelligent, profitable and carbon neutral, using already available technology.
Idaho based Solar Roadways, the brainchild of Scott Brusaw, is a startup that has recently gained tremendous momentum through government and philanthropic grants enabling them to build an impressive prototype of a piece of intelligent road of glass, which they say will antiquate asphalt roads.
- You'll be driving on top of a layer of glass, underneath which will be solar panels that store the energy of the sun. The sun already produces the energy that makes asphalt roads so hot, so why not harness that phenomenon and collect that energy?
- The roads would feature dynamic light signals, that could display any message, such as "slow down", "wet road" or "pedestrians ahead".
- Using mutual induction techniques, electrical vehicles could eventually be recharged while driving, completely obviating the need for external fueling.
- The energy gathered by the solar panels will be distributed by the roads themselves, which will act as cables. In effect, the highway network will become an electrical grid.
- One mile of road can produce enough electricity to serve the power needs of more than 400 homes.
- Solar roads would be built to last 22 years, exactly the time they would take to produce enough electricity to pay for themselves, so in practice they'd cost nothing.
- If the entire current US highway system were replaced with solar panels, they would produce three times the energy need of the United States.
- The roads would be built upon a base layer of recycled garbage pellets, relieving landfills.
- The roads will heat up to speed the condensation of dangerous rain, as well as melt snow and ice right off the road, rendering plow trucks a thing of the past.
As the world eventually runs out of oil, gasoline and asphalt will become intolerably expensive, so at some point we will have to find other materials with which to build roads. Why not pick a solution that is at the same time economically viable (profitable actually), environmentally friendly AND politically palatable?
I'm sure many of you will have apprehensions about driving on glass, but fear not, Brusaw assures us that the glass will have at least the same level of traction and friction as today's roads, possibly even more so. And it won't shatter either: Glass, I've come to learn, can actually be engineered to be as hard as steel.
The only drawback, as I see it, is that Solar Roadways is not a publicly traded company. Otherwise I'd be calling my broker right now.
Watch the video to find out exactly how it works.