Solar powered roads may soon be the way of the future if Julie and Scott Brusaw have anything to say about it. This new inventive technology was first developed in 2006 when Global Warming seemed to be such a hot button topic. Scott Brusaw thought as a child it would be awesome if the roads were electric and then maybe kids could drive too. This idea stuck with him until the mid 2000s when his wife mentioned the possibility of solar powered roads. Thus, began the idea of solar powered roads.
They used the idea of the airplane’s black box in order to decide the best way to develop an object strong enough to encase the sensitive electronics. The Brusaw’s idea would take the traditional asphalt highways and be replaced by solar panels. These would act as a huge energy generator that could feed the grid and still be usable at night. They would also charge electric vehicles while moving. This may help with the eventual conversion of gas vehicles to electric vehicles.
The couple from Idaho was put on contract with the government in 2009 to progress this idea and they soon joined with researchers to develop a glass texture strong enough to offer cars the traction they would require. They equipped LED road markers to keep from destroying the cells by painting highway lines over them and even used heating to warm the surface and keep the system from failing. It will hold the weight of vehicles weighing up to 125 tons without breaking.
They tested the solar powered panels against this winter’s weather using a solar powered parking lot instead of a road, which may soon be roads instead of basic parking lots. The result was what they predicted and prevented ice and snow build-up. It has also been texture tested, meaning in the rain a vehicle will be stopped in the right amount of time. After successfully completing the Phase I contract, they were awarded a two year Phase II $750,000 contract by the Federal Highway Administration that began in 2011. With this award a prototype parking lot was built and then tested under all weather and sunlight conditions. As of 2014 they are looking to produce the product using crowd-funding site, Indiegogo to raise money.
The main problem most find with this project is the cost. There are roughly 29,000 miles of road to cover in the U.S. This makes the cost sky rocket into the trillions. This huge price could be lowered, however if it was done in sections rather than all at once it could be feasible. They do not have to try to change all the roads over at once. It would be much simpler to either go state by state or even test it in several small counties and slowly spread it nation wide. Some scientists believe it will never be possible though due to higher costs.
They are still a long way from mass producing, but it is cheaper to produce solar powered roads than to keep producing asphalt roads. Solar powered roads may just be the way of the future since the solar powered roads would only need to be replaced every twenty years. Which may make it possible to rid the world of fossil fuels caused by vehicles, which causes 25 percent of the pollution. When they began this project 50 percent thought the Brusaw’s were crazy and the other half thought they were genius. While today there are still doubts on whether this will work they are small in number. Idaho representative U.S. Senator Mike Crapo is already offering his support. So in the near future U.S. roads may be solar powered.
Opinion by Heather Tillman