Forget everything you ever learned about road construction. A company called Solar Roadways Inc. is working to develop solar-powered roads. You heard that right.
The vision of Solar Roadways – the brainchild of Julie and Scott Brusa – is to overlay roads, parking lots and driveways with panels made from recycled materials and incorporating photovoltaic cells that generate renewable energy that may be used by homes and businesses, and with any excess energy perhaps stored in or alongside the road.
Julie is a counselor and Scott is an electrical engineer (MSEE) with more than 20 years of industry experience.
Solar Roadways describes its existing prototype panel as consisting of three layers.
- Road surface layer – translucent and high-strength, it is rough enough to provide sufficient traction, yet still passes sunlight through to the solar collector cells embedded within, along with LEDs and a heating element. This layer needs to be capable of handling today's heaviest loads under the worst of conditions and to be weatherproof, to protect the electronics layer beneath it. The surface layer will also be responsible for redirecting sunlight to hit the solar panels at the optimal angle.
- Electronics layer – Contains a microprocessor board with support circuitry for sensing loads on the surface and controlling a heating element with a view to reducing or eliminating snow and ice removal as well as school and business closings due to inclement weather. The microprocessor controls lighting, communications, monitoring, etc. With a communications device every 12
- Base plate layer – While the electronics layer collects energy from the sun, it is the base plate layer that distributes that power as well as data signals (phone, TV, internet, etc.) down the line to all homes and businesses connected to the solar roadway. It needs to be weatherproof to protect the electronics layer above it.
While detractors say the concept is science fiction and not feasible, Scott Brusa maintained it is conceivable, and has posted a definitive Frequently Asked Questions section on the company’s website that addresses issues such as durability, performance and weather-related concerns.
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) is an early supporter of the company and its possibilities, saying it will “create jobs and lessen our dependence on fossil fuels while utilizing available resources.”
For more information, go to www.solarroadways.com/faq.shtml.