Highways paved with solar panels could be around the corner

Solar highways could replace asphalt roads in our future

 

Roads and highways have been covered with asphalt since President Dwight Eisenhower opened the federal highways in the 1950’s. 

Today, that black liquid’s getting expensive – close to $1,000 a ton – and being petroleum-based, chances are the price will keep going up. 

Inventor Scott Brusaw is working towards an innovative, more environmentally friendly possibility – the Solar Highway

This past February, Brusaw completed a prototype of a solar roadway that was funded by the US Department of Transportation (Federal Highway Administration) which met their requirement to build a prototype of “an intelligent pavement that could generate power”. 

Solar panels would need to be able to bear the weight of semi-trucks to be part of a solar roadway

 

  • be strong enough to support a fully loaded semi-truck clocking 80 miles per hour
  • have the same traction as asphalt
  • be shatterproof
  • be fireproof
  • be transparent enough to let the sun through but not to throw the glare into a driver’s eyes

As fantastical as this may sound, it’s within the realm of possibility. 

“This is out of the box thinking, said Carlo Patano, Professor of Materials Science at Penn State University. But, he added, “glass can have as high a strength as steel.” 

LEDs are recessed within an array of electronic modules, along with sensors to help spell messages to oncoming drivers

 

Brusaw also built a 3’ by 3’ panel with a frame around it – “the crosswalk panel” that, when stepped on by a pedestrian, would trigger an LED message to begin flashing, alerting oncoming drivers to slow down. 

The potential benefits of solar highways are many.They would: 

  • Allow hazardous materials to be tracked in real-time, cutting the potential of terrorist attacks
  • Provide real-time traffic information
  • Keep the roads warm, preventing them from icing over. No more need for snow plows!
  • Detect animals in the road & be able to warn drivers before it’s too late
  • Bring solar power to new areas, providing clean water and power to places that aren’t served now
  • Allow electric vehicles to fully charge in solar parking lots or on the roadways so they aren’t limited to special charging stations
  • Create millions of green tech jobs
  • Light up roads that are now dark at night

This "crosswalk panel" will trigger LED messages to drivers, alerting them to pedestrians

 

Also, most of the panels parts will be reusable and recyclable. 

Solar highways would also generate electricity, of course. According to a recent article in Popular Science, each 12-by-12-foot Solar Roadway panel would produce about 7,600 watt-hours a day, based on an average of four hours of sunlight.A one-mile stretch of four-lane highway could power about 500 homes. These highways could power homes, businesses, even cities. 

If adopted across the country, these highways would significantly lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, lower pollution, even make power lines and power stations obsolete. 

The next step for Brusaw is for Phase II funding, , a two-year, $750,000 deal to develop a commercial plan for the panels. After that comes testing in solar parking lots. 

This is a technology to keep a close eye on. The use and application of photovoltaics is definitely getting interesting!

One Response

  1. This is the kind of technology that could help restore a balance with nature.
    Very exciting stuff.

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