Couple Makes Roads out of Solar Panels
by Emily Atkin
Finding a way to replace regular roads with ones that could better serve a sustainable world has long been Scott and Julie Brusaw’s dream. Lately, the couple has been working on that dream so much that on Tuesday, May 13, they didn’t even sleep.
“All of the publicity is keeping us hopping,” Julie said by email on Wednesday afternoon, after Scott had fallen asleep. “I have over 6,800 unanswered emails in my inbox right now—not counting all of the thousands I’ve responded to, of course!” The emails are about the couple’s Solar Roadways project, which aims to replace traditional asphalt-and-concrete roadways with solar panels that are covered with 4-square-foot glass hexagon panels. The glass panels are designed not only to withstand the heaviest of trucks, but are also textured, which allows tires to grip the road’s surface while water runs off it.
The solar panels underneath generate energy from the sun, which would not only power nearby communities but also the electric vehicles that drive on top of them. The power produced would also fuel embedded heating elements that melt ice and snow, essentially making snowplows obsolete. In addition, the panels would also generate enough juice to light up yellow LED lights, replacing painted-on road lines to make night driving safer.
It’s a seemingly crazy idea, but according to the couple, it’s actually working. Boosted by two phases of funding they’ve received from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, they’ve built a parking lot that they say can withstand vehicle weight, generate electricity and ultimately help reduce climate change.
“We want to install a sufficient number of parking lots, sidewalks and driveways to feel ready to move on to [installing] roads,” she said. “However, we have potential customers waiting from all over the country and the world, so we’re also hoping to move very quickly. If we meet our goal on Indiegogo (crowdfunding website), that will enable us to hire our initial team and gear up for production.”
Their dream seems to be coming true. The initial $1 million Indiegogo campaign raised over $2 million for Solar Roadways.
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