Solar roads – is that even possible?

Last week I wrote about ‘smart roads‘, an idea to upgrade Europe’s highways into something more user-friendly and less damaging to the environment. Here’s another idea for using our roadways, one that’s even more radical – solar roads.

That video is from a couple of years ago, and since making it, husband and wife inventors Scott and Julie Brusaw have in fact developed their concept. They’ve researched and exhaustively tested a glass tough enough to drive on. They’ve created a modular hexagon-based road system, fitted with solar panels and LEDs, with channels either side for drainage and maintenance. They’ve built a test site on their own driveway, and now they want to scale it up further.

solar roads

It’s hard to imagine that covering every road in America with solar panels will ever be economic, but I can see how it would be a useful technology for car parks, motorway service stations and garages. The alternative for those sorts of places is kinetic road plates, but we haven’t heard much about those recently, after pilot projects a few years ago. They need moving parts, and there’s more to go wrong. With the cost of solar falling all the time, perhaps this is actually a better use of flat urban spaces to generate electricity.

In the video above, there’s a moment where the Brusaws admit that 50% of people think they’re geniuses, and the other 50% think they’re crazy. I really don’t know, but I admire their tenacity. If you’re in the first half of that equation, you can support their crowdfunding campaign here to start manufacturing.

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5 Comments on “Solar roads – is that even possible?”

  1. Andy in Germany May 26, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    I was sceptical of this when I read about it: this sounds like one of those ideas that tells us we can keep doing everything the same but greener and everything will be fine because technology will save the day.

    Others more knowlegable than me have since voiced scepticism. See: http://www.notechmagazine.com/2014/05/why-solar-roadways-are-a-silly-idea.html

    • Jeremy May 27, 2014 at 10:13 am #

      I was sceptical too, and I’m not at all convinced by the inventor’s vision of a solar road network. There’s no way that’s economically viable, and nor is it necessary – America is not short of space. You’d be better off putting normal (and cheaper) solar panels alongside highways where they won’t be driven over by heavy goods vehicles.

      However, in thinking about it, I can see potential here on a smaller scale. The good idea here is not solar roads, but solar that can be safely fitted at ground level. That could work very well for places that have car park space but don’t have a suitable roof for solar. Or ground level panels in pavements or on terraces might work for places that use natural light and don’t want to cover their roofs with panels.

      I could use the technology myself. My house doesn’t have a south-facing roof, so I haven’t been able to invest in solar power even though I’d would like to. I do have a patio that sits in the sun all day though – so how about a solar patio?

  2. theconsciousaim May 30, 2014 at 1:39 am #

    Reblogged this on TheConsciousAim.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Building of the week – the solar canal | Make Wealth History - October 3, 2014

    […] I can see some in the photo above. This is true, but unlike the more doubtful proposition of solar roads, there are advantages to sticking solar panels on a […]

  2. France to build 1,000 km of solar roads | Make Wealth History - February 8, 2016

    […] couple of years ago I wrote about solar roadways and a couple with a vision for covering all of America’s roads with solar panels. It’s […]

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