Solar Roadways Could Power Tomorrow

Solar Roadways

One sunny Saturday in late May 2012, Germany generated nearly half its power from solar panels within its borders. “That’s a small miracle—and it demonstrates that we have the technology to solve our problems,” Bill McKibben wrote in his landmark essay for Rolling Stone, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” Could there be a day when we garner all our energy from clean, sustainable sources? Solar Roadways founders Scott and Julie Brusaw think so.

The Brusaws have taken to the crowdfunding site Indiegogo for a concept project that would pave the way to the future. The pair have engineered custom, glass-covered solar panels that are strong enough to handle the weight of cars and trucks. The panels are heated to melt snow, ground-lit with LED lights, and fitted to drain polluting storm runoff.

Glass is stronger than you might think, Mr. Brusaw told Fast Company, “You first mention glass, people think of your kitchen window,” he says. “But think of bulletproof glass or bomb resistant glass. You can make it any way you want. Basically bulletproof glass is several sheets of tempered glass laminated together. That’s what we have, only our glass is a half inch thick, and tempered, and laminated.”

Pipe dream? Not quite, the project already has received two phases of funding from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration for research and development, as well as being tapped as a Google Moonshot. Supporters envision a day when low-carbon, energy-producing solar roadways begin to replace our 18,000 square miles of paved roads here in the States. Designers even think we could one day power electric cars from this smart grid, further reducing our reliance on dirty fossil fuels.

With two week left on Indiegogo, the project has already raised nearly $2 million, twice the original goal. Organizers plan to use the funds to expand their engineering team and take the idea from concept to reality.


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text by: Blaine Skrainka

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