Global warming, due in part to a lack of available renewable energy sources, is finally being challenged. Solar roads, thanks to Idaho-based electrical engineer Scott Brusaw and his wife Julie Brusaw, are perhaps likely to make their way in the U.S. at some point in the near future. Since the 1960s, Brusaw had a passion for racing slot cars on electric tracks, which eventually led to his idea to make real roads electric. With his wife suggesting he try to make solar panels as a part of the electric roads he constructed in his younger years, the couple together has since designed the first solar-powered roads.
As news about global warming and its disastrous effects became household talk between the couple in the mid-2000s, Julie Brusaw asked her husband if he could insert solar panels as part of his childhood experiment with electric roads. At first, the electrical engineer laughed at the idea, but it was not too long after that he started to put his wife’s idea to the test.
Starting from the idea of using the black box of an airplane as a model, the Brusaw couple explored the potential of developing a durable case that is solar powered and could contain very sensitive electronic components. Their idea of creating solar roads became a reality after having found a way to embed solar cells capable of storing energy within the case, along with LEDs to light up roads and embedded heating functions in the case of ice or snowy weather.
Paralleling Brusaw’s childhood experiments with electrical roads, these new solar-powered roads would also recharge electric cars while driving. As this would heavily reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it would also serve as a gigantic generator of energy capable of feeding the power grid during daylight hours.
While global warming contributions from the U.S. remain challenged by the Brusaw couple, they have additionally called for traditional, petroleum-based asphalt freeways to be swapped with equally durable solar panels. As this would favor the environment, it would also provide the passage for renewable energy sources to make their way in the U.S.
The original idea was to help fight global warming, but this developed further when the couple learned that the U.S. has over 72,000 square kilometers of petroleum-based asphalt roads which all receive a large amount of sun exposure. As the couple states, if these roads could be replaced with solar panels, then “we could produce over three times the amount of energy that we use as a nation.” As global warming remains challenged by the couple, these new solar roads would be using clean sources of energy in lieu of using coal and could show up on highways relatively soon.
After having already tested the solar panels on roads using 125 ton-weighing vehicles, the Brusaws stated that there was no breakage, and that the traction can stop a car going over 128 kilometers per hour while on a wet surface. Proving that the system works, Brusaw states that this could revolutionize U.S. infrastructure, while preventing automobile accidents and helping to stave off global warming.
As the Brusaw couple has challenged global warming through solar roads which will soon make their way in the U.S., they are currently looking for a wider range of funds to support their efforts. Currently, they have successfully completed the required tests to make sure that these solar panels can withstand weight, adhere to safety requirements, as well as providing electricity for the power grid.
By Scott Gaudinier