Solar Roadways, an Idaho-based company that is working to perfect and implement the concept of solar panels embedded within road surfaces, sidewalks and parking lots, is in the process of an Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign to raise the funding needed to gear up for production of its Solar Road Panels. If successful, there could be a wealth of ITS applications for the system, from road markings and simple power back-up to advanced traffic management.
Founded by husband and wife team, Scott and Julie Brusaw, in 2009 the company won a US$100,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the USDOT’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to prototype solar road panels. After successful completion of the Phase I SBIR contract, the company was awarded a follow-up two-year Phase II US$750,000 SBIR contract by the FHWA, beginning in 2011, to build a solar parking, which was completed in April.
The Solar Roadways system consists of interlocking tempered glass hexagonal panels, which have been tested for impact, load and traction. Embedded in the panels are: photovoltaic panels that generate the power; LED road markers to avoid the need to paint highway lines that would reduce their efficiency; heating elements to keep the panels snow and ice free; and an attached Cable Corridor to store and treat stormwater and also provide a ‘home’ for power and data cables vehicle sensors for ITS applications. The couple envisages the system being used to act as a massive energy generator that could feed the grid during daytime and also recharge moving electric vehicles (EVs), thereby helping to drastically reduce greenhouse emissions.
“Our original intent was to help solve the climate crisis,” said Scott Brusaw. “We learned that the USA had over 72,000 square kilometers of asphalt and concrete surfaces exposed to the sun. If we could cover them with our solar road panels, then we could produce over three times the amount of energy that we use as a nation; that’s using clean, renewable energy instead of coal. The panels prevented snow and ice accumulation this past winter and are producing the expected amount of power; the parking lot is equivalent to a 3,600W solar array. They have passed load testing for vehicles weighing up to 125 tons without breakage. Our textured surface has been traction tested and can stop a vehicle traveling 128km/h (80mph) on a wet surface in the required amount of distance. We need to make a few tweaks to our product and streamline our manufacturing process so that we can make our panels available to the public as quickly as possible. With US$1m, we can move into manufacturing quickly and begin installing sidewalks, parking lots, driveways and playgrounds, and then, when we feel we are ready, we’ll begin to install roads and highways.”
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