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Solar-powered roadways

EcoNote | May 23, 2014 | By:

Solar Roadways™ is a modular paving system of solar panels that can be installed on roads, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, bike paths, playgrounds—any surface under the sun—to provide solar energy to power homes and business that are connected to the system.

Inventors of the technology Scott and Julie Brusaw, Sagle, Idaho, have also built prototypes: a smaller-scale system made up of 12-by-12-foot panels of a custom, hardened glass that is wired with electronics. In addition to generating energy, there are sensors in the panels that can detect weight and could alert drivers when a person or animal is crossing the roadway.

Other features include heating elements to keep the surface free of snow and ice; LEDs to make road lines and signage; and an attached Cable Corridor to store and treat storm water and provide a “home” for power and data cables. Electric vehicles will be able to charge in  parking lots and driveways, and after a roadway system is in place, mutual induction technology will allow for charging while driving.

The glass surface has been tested in civil engineering laboratories for traction, load-bearing capability and impact resistance and has exceeded all requirements, according to the Brusaws.

Honors and awards

The project was selected by its peers as a finalist in the 2013 World Technology Award For Energy, presented in association with TIME, Fortune, CNN and Science. Also in 2013, it was chosen by Google to be one of their Moonshots, and it was a finalist in the IEEE Ace Awards in 2009 and 2010.

Solar Roadways has received two phases of funding from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) for research and development, including addressing the problem of storm water. (Currently, over 50 percent of the pollution in U.S. waterways comes from storm water.) The design’s Cable Corridors feature allows for storing, treating and moving storm water runoff. The Phase II contract—to build a prototype parking lot—is near completion.

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