Solar Roadways are finally gaining traction in the United States. Scott and Julie Brusaw have been developing their energy-generating roads for the last several years, hoping to replace asphalt with solar panels that can withstand the weight of cars. Now they are bringing their dream to a section of the historic Route 66 highway in Missouri.
Solar Roadways will be installed on Route 66 as part of Missouri’s Road to Tomorrow initiative, which focuses on improvements like smart highways and incorporating renewable energy.
Tom Blair, Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) engineer who heads Road to Tomorrow said, “It gets Missouri and MoDOT prepared for 21st century innovations. We expect them to be in place, I’m hoping, by the end of this year, maybe before snow flies. If [Solar Roadway’s] version of the future is realistic, if we can make that happen, then roadways can begin paying for themselves.”
Solar Roadways, based in Idaho, designs energy-generating roads made of modular solar panels covered in tempered glass. Inside the modules are microprocessors that communicate with other panels, a control center, and even with cars driving on the road. LED lights in the panels provide street lines and signs, and there are even heating elements so snow and ice don’t build up on the solar panels. Plus, because the units are modular, if one breaks, it’s easier to replace it stopping so much traffic.
Solar Roadways was first funded through a research contract from the U.S. Department of Transportation. An Indiegogo campaign garnered an additional $2 million. The idea is so popular, President Obama mentioned the project during his 2015 State of the Union address.
It looks like there’s a bright future for the startup. Soon these smart solar panels could line more than just roads. Solar Roadways envisions their modules on surfaces from playgrounds to basketball courts and airport runways.