Imagine a solar paneled road that you can walk or drive on. The solar panels would harness sun’s energy and convert it into electricity and heat. The roads would be clear of snow and ice, they would be illuminated at night with LEDs and electric vehicles could be recharged anywhere along the road. Think how much it would save on electricity or gasoline and how much pollution it would reduce.
Sounds crazy? Well, this is the brainchild of Scott and Julie Bursaw who have taken up this ambitious Solar Roadways project to make it possible. Their basic idea is to replace asphalt roads with solar panels made from recycled tough materials having photovoltaic cells embedded in them. These cells would collect power from the sun and produce clean renewable energy. These solar panels would withstand heavy weight of vehicles and would be used to pave roads, sidewalks, driveways and parking lots.
Electricity so generated would pay for the cost of the solar panels. The electricity could be used by homes and businesses and excess could be stored. Roads could be heated up by adding a heating element on the road surface to melt the snow and ice on them. LEDs could be used as road lights to light up the road during nights. Electric vehicles could be charged at roadside charging stations or in parking lots. The possibilities are numerous.
Solar Roadways Inc. was founded in 2006 by Scott and Julie Bursaw. In 2009, they received a contract to build the first protype of the solar road panel from the Federal Highway Administration. They got a grant of $100,000 from Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) for Phase I which was followed by another grant of $750,000 for phase II to build a solar parking lot. Solar Roadways started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo on 21 April 2014 to raise money to go into production. The company managed to raise $2.2 million from the campaign far exceeding the targeted amount of $1 million.
If this Solar Roadways project takes off, it would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, the stocks of which are depleting rapidly. They would cut down the greenhouse gases and generate huge amounts of clean energy that will go a long way in saving our world’s environment.