Solar Roadways – the future is here

I’ve written several times about the fascinating invention called Solar Roadways, developed by Scott and Julie Brusaw in 2006.

This cool invention, utilizing recycled materials, has gone from a neat idea to completion of test sites and is moving ahead towards bringing our solar future to our roads, driveways and city sidewalks. Imagine walking on LED-lighted sidewalks and having roadways signal you about something in the road ahead, giving you plenty of time to slow and avoid the hazard. Then imagine no ugly telephone poles or transformers overhead. All these would be housed safely underground alongside the solar roadways. This would give us back our views of the surrounding natural landscape to enjoy and appreciate.

A fascinating statistic to consider. If everything was converted to solar roadways (driveways, roads, etc.) it’s estimated the U.S. would produce three times the solar power we currently can.  Given that widespread adoption would created a huge number of jobs too, it’s an idea that’s worth pursuing, don’t you think:?

6 Responses

  1. I am already in touch with a company in the EU [European Union] which has taken this idea further than you may have thought possible. It has access to a development for the recent ultimately-thin paint-sprayed application which uses a development or biomass-derived photo-voltaic membrane that is a few millimetres thick and has the potential to extract the equivalent energy from the sun as traditional photovoltaic systems (the solid plate versions) at 20% of that capital cost. This system can be applied to any surface – roof or building new or old and is a real forward-thinking idea that will change the world.
    This could be applied to bridges dams concrete and brick structures and process-engineering storage tanks, oil tanks and even iconic structures such as the Eiffel Tower or the statue of Christ the Saviour in Brazil. The flexibility of the system is well understood and is a development break through that cannot be ignored.

    • Paul:

      Sounds like a very exciting breakthrough in technology. Thanks for letting me and my readers know about it! And thanks for being a fan of my blog. Hope you keep coming back!

  2. i have gone through the video and i liked the innovation. the idea you guys have prepared is something the earth needs right now. time has come to think of some never ending source of power and fuel and this can be a step to it. you have my thumbs up for this project. will keep researching on your findings and will share mine too in days to come .

  3. Just from some videos I’ve seen and things I’ve read about this I don’t think it would be economically viable. They look very expensive to make. There is no actual price given for them according to their website (note below).
    “We are not yet able to give numbers on cost. We are still in the midst of our Phase II contract with the Federal Highway Administration and we’ll be analyzing our prototype costs near the end of our contract which ends in July, 2014. Afterward, we’ll be able to do a production-style cost analysis.”

    However this doesn’t stop the internet hype, despite the fact they have no idea how much it even costs. It just seems ridiculous that anyone could think that a glass panel with electronics, wiring, LEDS, and solar panel inside that would need to be factory manufactured and then transported to the site (each tile weighs 50KG according to the companies site) anywhere close to the price of asphalt or even concrete.

    Just a few things I thought of that could be issues with solar roadways:

    There is the probability of transporting the electricity coming from each of them to the grid system and having to have wires coming off every single one and transporting it away under the road. It seems like a logistical nightmare to me.

    Installing the tiles on the road surface does not look efficient or fast either unless a way of efficiently laying them can be found. According to the solar roadways website each tile weighs about 50kg. Laying asphalt is a mostly mechanical process done using vehicles and is relatively simple to do.

    The amount of force applied to a road is tremendous. There is a demonstration of a tractor being driven over them and they claim their panels have been tested against weights that would be relative to the largest trucks in use, but does not account for millions of vehicles big and small driving over them for many years?

    Making the ground a flat and even surface is not easy. If the tiles are not laid flat they will experience bending and buckling stresses when vehicles drive over them. They would need to be semi elastic or hard enough to resist the bending force. Asphalt does not have this problem as it is partially elastic and can distribute the force evenly into the soil underneath. Steel reinforced concrete does not have this problem because it is both hard to compress but also hard to pull thanks to steel reinforcing so large slabs can hold themselves together. Once these extra factors have been accounted for the force applied to the solar tiles may be much larger. The force of one tire pushing down on an individual panel could sink the panel into the ground as the force is very directly applied, making the road surface uneven which is dangerous and deteriorates vehicles over time (equivalent of a pothole). This means that using individual panels of the size they were using may not be viable. It would need to be built over top concrete, which would make this project more expensive than conventional roads without the solar component.

    These problems are made worse when the soil underneath the road gets wet. Asphalt is very effective at combating this as it has a waterproof membrane and is effectively one uniform object until the point when it starts crack and it needs to be re-sealed. In some of the videos of their patio you can see the gaps between the tiles. How can they be sealed? It would be difficult sealing all of them. This would lead to unwanted soil movement leading to deformation of the road which again is dangerous and deteriorates vehicles. It is important that the road has a canter (so that water is transported off of it to prevent skidding, unless the glass panels have a way of increasing their skid resistance). Putting ridges or thinner bits of glass on top of the glass plates to decrease skidding would make it harder for light to get into the solar panel. The amount of light that could get into the solar panels could be greatly diminished by the amount of dirt, mud and debris caused from frequent use, meaning these may need to be cleaned regularly.

    Just some thoughts.

    Source: Civil Engineering student studying highways..

    some information from

    • Scott:

      All these are excellent points – problems that will definitely need to be fully and effectively addressed.

      Bear in mind the saying : every solution presents new problems. But innovative ventures such as this require new ways of implementing and maintaining things. It will be fascinating to see how the Brusaws come up with the myriad important solutions and how they put it all together. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on!

      Thanks for your comments and for reading Envirothink. Do come back again!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: