What if a parking lot could power your entire business? That’s the premise behind a new idea proposed by Idaho couple Julie and Scott Brusaw. Scott Brusaw, who is an electrical engineer, is focused, along with his wife, on creating streets lined with solar panels that will span the entire United States.
“All of the current asphalt and concrete currently soaking up the sun can be covered with our technology to turn that sunlight into clean, renewable electricity,” Brusaw explains. The idea is promising enough that the U.S. Federal Highway Administration has granted it funding, and the couple, who own a company called Solar Roadways, are currently seeking $1 million on Indiegogo so that they can commercially manufacturer the product for the first time.
The hexagonal solar panels, which consist of a layer of glass that covers a circuit board, LED lights, and a base layer, can withstand up to 250,000 pounds, convert sunlight to solar power, and be used for up-to-the-minute information displays. Traffic lines, for example, can be changed so as to avoid construction or delays. Repainting lines would be a thing of the past, saving local governments time and money. And, since the tiles stay warm, snow and ice would melt away without the use of environmentally-destructive salt.
The current prototype is only 18% effective, but if it were to panel the entire nation of roads and parking lots, it would already be enough to generate all of the U.S.’s electrical needs. It may be several years before the technology appears on public roads and highways, however; regulatory challenges will be a significant hurdle for the company to overcome.
“This fascinating technology could potentially apply to not only roadways, but also the parking lots and parking structures that we sweep,” says Steve Dekalbaum, President of Quiet Sweep, Ltd. “We’d welcome this sort of innovation to the areas we maintain day in and day out.”
In addition to potentially revolutionizing the country with clean energy, the roadway would also be able to communicate with drivers. A moose or deer crossing the road a mile ahead, for example, would be forecasted to drivers further back, in order to reduce the likelihood of an accident.