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Riding The Solar Roadway To A Green Future

Gettin’ Your Kicks On A Green Route 66

Light-TestThe U.S. highway system is broken. We’re barely keeping up with the costs of maintaining our roads and bridges. A gamble we lose at times, with tragic results. New materials and technologies have to be found to replace our current archaic system. Well, now hear this —

Solar Roadways based in Sagle, Idaho has developed an innovative solar road technology called Solar Road Panels™, that is going from the drawing board to prototype production. In August the Department of Transportation awarded the project $100,000 to construct the first 12′ (3.6 meters) by 12′ panel.

The Solar Road Panel (designed by Solar Roadways founder Scott Brusaw), is a series of structurally-engineered solar panels that are driven upon and is meant to replace petroleum-based asphalt on roads, current driveways, parking lots, and all road systems, be they interstate highways, state routes, downtown streets, residential streets, or even plain dirt or gravel country roads. Each energy-generating panel consists of three basic layers:

Road Surface Layer – translucent and high-strength, it is rough enough to provide great traction, yet still passes sunlight through to the solar collector cells. It is capable of handling today’s heaviest loads under the worst of conditions. Weatherproof, it protects the electronics layer beneath it. And did I mention no more potholes? Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Electronics Layer – Contains a large array of solar cells, LEDs, “Super” or “Ultra” capacitors that store the sun’s energy for later use, heating elements, on-board microprocessor controls lighting, communications, monitoring, etc. Made up mostly of recycled water bottles, tires, etc.

solar-panel-highway-2Base Plate Layer – Distributes power (collected from the electronics layer) and data signals (phone, TV, internet, etc.) “downline” to all homes and businesses connected to the Solar Roadway. The power and data signals are passed through each of the four sides of the base plate layer. Weatherproof, it protects the electronics layer above it.

The embedded LEDs “paint” the travel lines and lane markers from beneath to provide safer nighttime driving, as well as to give up to the minute instructions (via the road) to drivers (i.e. “detour ahead”). The road will be able to sense wildlife on the road and can warn drivers to “slow down”. There will also be embedded heating elements to prevent snow and ice buildup, providing for safer winter driving. Cities will no longer have the expense of snow removal and the problems caused by the chemicals (salt, magnesium chloride, etc.) used to maintain clear roads.

In case of damage such as lightening strikes, each panel is equipped with a GFI (Ground Fault Interrupter), which would shut off as soon as a current surge was detected by the microprocessors in the undamaged neighboring panels. Say the lightning does some significant damage: a hole is blown clear through the panel. It would be electrically isolated and the surrounding panels could toggle the LEDs bordering the damaged panel. This would “paint” a square around the damaged panel to warn drivers of the danger. Oncoming drivers would be warned of the brief detour. Plus, no power outage – not even a disruption of service to any electrical customers and instantly illuminated warnings.

The Solar Roadway is completely decentralized. Every panel can generate, store, and pass electricity “down line” to homes and businesses. The road becomes the power grid, eliminating the need for unsightly utility poles and relay stations. Power is generated everywhere – every road, parking lot, and driveway. No more power outages, roaming or otherwise. This is “secure” energy – it can’t be deliberately shut down. Not by terrorists, not by power companies, it simply can’t be shut down. Decentralizing the production of electricity can also make the grid more resilient and save some of the 400 billion kilowatt-hours now lost while current flows through long-distance transmission lines to the nation’s households.

Since the power lines will be in essense underground, it will prevent power outages from downed lines due to ice accumulation, severe storms, or high winds.

Solar RoadwayNo more unsightly utility poles or relay stations because all power lines are replaced by Solar Road Panels. Data (telephone, cable TV, high-speed internet access, etc.) is contained within the same Solar Road Panels and delivered right to your home/business via your driveway/parking lot.

It will make all-electric vehicles practical, since the Solar Roadway carries electricity, electric cars can be recharged at any conveniently located rest stop along the way, or at any business that incorporates Solar Road Panels in their parking lots (restaurants for instance). Just plug your car in and recharge while you’re eating or shopping.

Costing about $7,000 per panel, the Solar Roadway will pay for itself through the generation of clean electricity and data delivery while providing safer driving conditions. The same money that is being used to build and resurface asphalt roads can be used to build the Solar Roadways. Plus most parts in the Solar Road Panels are reusable/recyclable.

If the entire US Interstate system made use of the panels, energy would no longer be a concern for the country. The Solar Roadway would take roughly five billion 12′ by 12′ Solar Road Panels just to cover the roads, parking lots, and driveways in the United States. Causing, as the company states: The creation of so many new jobs that it may very well become the “New Deal” of the 21st century. We can retrain workers from obsolete jobs such as coal miners and asphalt workers with new “Green Collar” jobs. In just the final assembly alone it could put 2,500,000 people to work full-time for ten years.

This feature packed system will become an intelligent highway that will double as a secure, intelligent, decentralized, self-healing power grid. Generating 7.6 kilowatt hours of power per panel each day allowing a single four-lane, one-mile road to provide enough power to take 500 homes off-grid.

I really hope the prototype works because …. I LIKE IT!!

….. as the green future unfolds.

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34 Responses to “Riding The Solar Roadway To A Green Future”

  1. Turning Winds Says:

    Me and my friends got a discussion regarding solar panels to be used. Solar panels are already introduce few years back and also few people uses solar panels.

    Why? First is due to its maintenance and cost of buying a solar panels. Yes! you can conserve energy but it is too long to have your ROI back. Second is fortuitous events like typhoons, earthquakes and even tornado. It is too risky to take chances of getting what you have paid for.

    Just some thoughts… 🙂

  2. Linda Says:

    hi turning winds … That may be true however, solar panels are getting better and better along with the price coming down. Hang in there and the ROI will be worth it!

  3. Global Patriot Says:

    On the one hand, this is a very novel idea for generating electricity from our existing roadways, but I can’t imagine that it will be cost effective to build panels that can withstand such extreme weight. Hopefully I’ll be proved wrong, but time will tell.
    .-= Global Patriot´s last blog ..Is Farm-Raised Salmon Sustainable? =-.

  4. Linda Says:

    Hi Global Patriot … Yep! I am awaiting the prototype to see if it can handle the weight …

  5. Brendan Says:

    Here’s an interview with the man himself, Scott Brusaw:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3PeSm6_hTE

  6. Linda Says:

    Hi Brendan … Thanks for the tip! I certainly enjoyed your short film! Made me giggle but great message! 😀

  7. salt lake city movers Says:

    Wow! This is very cool! The thought that these could replace ugly electrical lines and the such is very intriguing. I look forward to hearing more about solar roadways.

  8. Linda Says:

    Hi Salt Lake City … We will keep a watch and update when we can. 😀

  9. Dan Boise Says:

    Wow….great concept. Hopefully this product will work beyond prototype and will be used all across North America.

  10. Linda Says:

    Hi Dan … I agree! It really would be pretty cool to be zippin along on this…

  11. Mrs. Money Says:

    I would love to have solar for my house! This is really inspiring.

  12. Linda Says:

    Hi Mrs. Money … Thank you! Keep a look out as there are sales going on all the time for solar panels for the home.

  13. Barbara Swafford Says:

    Hi Linda,

    Do you think they can get this into the newest budget that just came out of the Whitehouse. Talk about job creation. And it would be “green”.

    Like you, I like this idea.
    .-= Barbara Swafford´s last blog ..Unveiling The Results Of My Facelift =-.

  14. Linda Says:

    Hi Barbara … I think that they are working on it along with other projects. However, with Europe jumping on the idea, we will be behind the eight ball if they do not get any of the budget money.

  15. Lissof Says:

    Sounds great, even though the technology may be a little expensive today, we have to look towards the future. Once proven, it will be one more application to drive the solar industry into the scale of production that will reduce the cost factor for individual projects.

  16. Linda Says:

    Hi Lissof … You betcha! The sooner the better…..

  17. Karen Says:

    No more potholes? Yay!
    .-= Karen´s last blog ..Heads or Tails =-.

  18. Linda Says:

    Hi Karen … Yea! along with no snow, ice, water, etc. just pretty cool!

  19. Brad Says:

    Well, Linda, since your toilet post seems to be closed (?), I figured I’d comment on it here.

    The concept is, I hope, an improvement on the low volume toilets that have been out for some time now that require two or three flushes to completely void the bowl. Never could quite grasp the logic in that one. The adjust-ability feature in your featured toilet sounds good to me. 🙂

  20. Linda Says:

    Hi Brad … I have fixed the problem! Thanks for letting me know. Yes, the concept is better than what is being sold today within the current commodes. Are you going to try it? 😀

  21. Finger Oximeter Says:

    Solar roads sounds like a good idea. There are many benefits however, I wonder how they plan to address snow. Plows are very damaging to roads as well as salt. Snow would also prohibit light from hitting the solar panel.
    .-= Finger Oximeter´s last blog ..Oximeter Reviews updated Sat Feb 6 2010 12:44 pm CST =-.

  22. Linda Says:

    Hi Finger Oximeter … You have a point but from what I understand the panels will not let snow accumulate on them. Unlike the roads now, they will have some kind of heating elements in them thus preventing ice buildup as well.

  23. TenderWarrior Says:

    You may want to read and understand what all the cost implications are to intelligently evaluate it. The solar roads replace not only the existing roads, but the entire electrical grid as we know it today. Think of it, the thousands of power plants, the million miles of high tension wires. Think of the cost of all that, and it all goes away. Our complete independence from foreign oil and the disappearance of our need to drill for any new oil has benefits of untold proportion. As long as the system can be made somewhat reliable, but again the maintenance costs replace that of maintaining all the present roads as well as the power plants and power grid. Think of the cost savings that goes to the businesses and people for being able to buy this cheap power for their buldings and vehicles.

  24. Linda Says:

    Hi TenderWarrior … So the ROI will be well worth it right?

  25. Mark Dixon Says:

    Great to see such a robust article about Solar Roadways! It is important to note that in a peak oil scenario that could likely spike the price of oil, and the cost of building new roads will also spike, since they are built with a lot of oil. If we can figure out a way to build solar roads without so much oil, then they’ll be even more price competitive than they currently are.

    Also, I visited Scott at his home in Idaho and created a short but interesting little video about the project– take a look!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3PeSm6_hTE

    Cheers,
    Mark from YERT.com

  26. Linda Says:

    Hi Mark … thanks for the additional information!

  27. corrin Says:

    Not built into the asphalt, but my hometown has many solar powered stop signs and stop lights!

  28. Linda Says:

    Hi Corrin … Yep! we are seeing more of them in the rural areas now. In fact, the solar power gate openers are quite popular here. Little steps are adding up! 😀

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  30. The design, manufacture of Metal Gates and Railings & Automated Gates. Says:

    We design, supply and install metal gates & railings, wrought iron garden gates, driveway gates, garden railings and much more.

  31. Christina Says:

    The Solar Road Panels sound especially unique. Solar Roadways created a very innovative concept when addressing the replacement of these traditional road systems.

  32. solar panels for home Mackay Says:

    Instead of powering your home with dirty fossil fuel, all the electricity comes from clean and renewable sunshine. Leave the oil, gas and coal in the ground where they belong and help the world conserve its natural resources.

  33. Elena Prokopets Says:

    Awesome! Renewable power sources are getting quite popular these days with the ongoing campaign to go green.

  34. Christina Says:

    Your comments about the gamble we take are interesting. While many people are aware that maintenance affects the general population in a general sense, bringing these “tragic results” home with your opening statement highlights the importance of change.

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