If you’ve scampered barefoot across asphalt on a sunny day, then you know driveways are already absorbing plenty of solar energy. What if we could actually harness it? Solar Roadways has created solar panels so strong you could drive a tractor right over them—plus they light up at night and heat to melt snow.
In 2009, Solar Roadways was just a nifty concept. Five years and two Department of Transportation research grants later, husband-and-wife team Scott and Julie Brusaw have created a working prototype in the driveway of their electronics lab.
As you would expect, the prototype looks different from their original concept. For one, the tiles are now hexagon shaped, which makes for better coverage over curves and hills. Super-strong textured glass protects the solar panel, LED lights, and heating elements underneath. It can withstand a 250,000-pound load—check out this tractor driving over the panels:
Now the Brusaw’s have launched a $1 million indiegogo campaign to continue developing Solar Roadways. The top reward for $10,000 is a miniature version of the road panel, which suggests your fully outfitted solar driveway is still far off in the future.
But it’s certainly an intriguing idea—albeit with many challenges—to twin our road and electric infrastructures, both aging and in need of updates. A parking lot paved with solar panels could perhaps power its own lights, traffic signals, and electric car charging stations. A series of roads could be part of a town’s electric grid—and just imagine the powerhouse that the interstate highway system could become. [Solar Roadways via Wired]
LED lit up at night
Scott and Julie Brusaw holding the textured glass on the panels.
All photos via Solar Roadways