This is a bit of an odd beastie. Technically it is plausible and this company has made the first steps in working up the details. So yes, this could be done. The real issue is cost.
After all we have our road system because it is actually a system of local gravel roads with a cheap binder to hold it all together. Cheap has made it universal. Yet a perfect upgrade is to roll on to a freshly surfaced asphalt highway a thin working layer that possibly uses the protocols developed here.
There are two immediate benefits. The pavement is protected and no longer needs maintenance. The road will produce solar power with only modest loss over time as possibly seventy percent or so remains practically pristine anyway.
I would like to see a carbon fiber mat on the underside to mesh naturally with the asphalt and provide natural adhesion.
The problem is to produce a super thin working surface that handle the stresses and be cheap. That is a pretty tall order.
The video covers it well.
Solar Roadways has entered GE's Ecomagination Challenge: a $200 million innovation experiment where businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators and students share their best ideas on how to build the next-generation power grid - and just might get funded.
They've teamed up with some of the best-known venture capital firms, including Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, KPCB and Rockport Capital, to help back the most promising ideas.
Before you leave our site, please vote by visiting our Ecomagination page. This could be just what we need to begin the New Deal of the 21st century. Thank you very much and we hope you'll enjoy our website.
This year (2010) alone, we've lost lives in coal mine and oil rig disasters and gas line explosions. The
Years ago, when the phrase "Global Warming" began gaining popularity, we started batting around the idea of replacing asphalt and concrete surfaces with solar panels that could be driven upon. We thought of the "black box" on airplanes: We didn't know what material that black box was made of, but it seemed to be able to protect sensitive electronics from the worst of airline crashes.
Suppose we made a section of road out of this material and housed solar cells to collect energy, which could pay for the cost of the panel, thereby creating a road that would pay for itself over time. What if we added LEDs to "paint" the road lines from beneath, lighting up the road for safer night time driving? What if we added a heating element in the surface (like the defrosting wire in the rear window of our cars) to prevent snow/ice accumulation in northern climates? The ideas and possibilities just continued to roll in and the Solar Roadway project was born.
In 2009, we received a contract from the
Federal Highway Administration to build the first ever Solar Road Panel prototype. During the course of its construction, we learned many lessons and discovered new and better ways to approach this project. These methods and discoveries are discussed throughout this website. Please enjoy and send us any questions that you may have.
The heart of the Solar Roadway™ is the
Solar Road Panel™
The Solar Roadway is a series of structurally-engineered solar panels that are driven upon. The idea is to replace all current petroleum-based asphalt roads, parking lots, and driveways with
Solar Road Panels that collect energy to be used by our homes and businesses. Our ultimate goal is to be able to store excess energy in or alongside the Solar Roadways. This renewable energy replaces the need for the current fossil fuels used for the generation of electricity. This, in turn, cuts greenhouse gases literally in half.
Each individual panel consists of three basic layers:
Road Surface Layer - translucent and high-strength, it is rough enough to provide great traction, yet still passes sunlight through to the solar collector cells embedded within, along with LEDs and a heating element. It is capable of handling today's heaviest loads under the worst of conditions. Weatherproof, it protects the electronics layer beneath it.
Electronics Layer Contains a microprocessor board with support circuitry for sensing loads on the surface and controlling a heating element. No more snow/ice removal and no more school/business closings due to inclement weather. The on-board microprocessor controls lighting, communications, monitoring, etc. With a communications device every 12 feet, the Solar Roadway is an intelligent highway system.
Base Plate Layer Layer - While the electronics layer collects energy from the sun, it is the base plate layer that distributes power (collected from the electronics layer) and data signals (phone, TV, internet, etc.) "downline" to all homes and businesses connected to the Solar Roadway. Weatherproof, it protects the electronics layer above it.
Scott presented the Solar Roadways at a TEDx Talk in
on April 16th. He was given 18 minutes for "The talk of his life" and it went great! Sacramento
Solar Road Panels are interconnected, the intelligent Solar Roadway is formed. These panels replace current driveways, parking lots, and all road systems, be they interstate highways, state routes, downtown streets, residential streets, or even plain dirt or gravel country roads. Panels can also be used in amusement parks, raceways, bike paths, parking garage rooftops, remote military locations, etc. Any home or business connected to the Solar Roadway (via a Solar Road Panel driveway or parking lot) receives the power and data signals that the Solar Roadway provides. The Solar Roadway becomes an intelligent, self-healing, decentralized (secure) power grid.
The images below illustrate how the west can power the east in the evening and the east can power the west in the morning hours.
Everyone has power. No more power shortages, no more roaming power outages, no more need to burn coal (50% of greenhouse gases). Less need for fossil fuels and less dependency upon foreign oil. Much less pollution. How about this for a long term advantage: an electric road allows all-electric vehicles to recharge anywhere: rest stops, parking lots, etc. They would then have the same range as a gasoline-powered vehicle. Internal combustion engines would become obsolete. Our dependency on oil would come to an abrupt end.
It's time to upgrade our infrastructure - roads and power grid - to the 21st century.
Read about Solar Roadways in the new (July 2010) issue of Popular Science magazine.
Solar Roadways is a proud participant in GE's Ecomagination Challenge: a contest created to find new ways of improving our energy grid with renewable energy. Visitors to the site are asked to vote for the best ideas. We'd appreciate your vote for the Solar Roadways entries (all three!). Thank you very much.