Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Feb 26

Energy from Solar Roadways

Posted in Energy Inventions | Future Technology | Solar Power | Transportation

Solar Roadway We are using fossil fuels as the primary source of energy to run our Industrial Civilization. But we are paying a heavy price for using fossil fuels in the form of environmental damages. Now, we know that fossil fuels and natural gases are not going to last forever. This will lead us into big problems. We can’t go back to life of the 18th century. We can’t shut down our industrial units and means of transport and communications. Many are worried about the impending situation and thinking of solutions.


An Idaho-based company called Solar Roadways has been attempting to solve this energy crisis in its distinctive way. According to Scott Brusaw of Solar Roadways we can counter the energy crisis by adopting a unique method. We can construct Solar Roadways! We can convert 25,000 miles of petroleum-based asphalt highways and byways of the lower 48 states into Solar Roadways! Similar results can be achieved with the parking lots, airports, malls, stadiums and driveways!

The good news is they are getting universities and research labs interested in their venture. This company is also working on a 45-mile prototype between Coeur D’Alene and Sandpoint, Idaho. By now we can gauge that this project is not cheap. But Scott said four companies have expressed interest in this project. Electrical engineer by profession, and also the founder of the company, he believes that if the US Interstate Highway system can be exchanged with his system with a solar cell efficiency of 10 percent, it could power the whole country.

These Solar Road Panels will generate and restore energy for our homes and businesses. The added side effect will be a fifty percent cut in the greenhouse gases. Scott envisions about the interconnected and intelligent multiple Solar Road Panels. He predicts a future where interstate highways, state routes, downtown streets, residential streets, or plain dirt or gravel country roads will be having Solar Road Panels catering to the energy needs of homes or business units. Scott’s Solar Roadway will be an intelligent, self-healing, decentralized (secure) power grid.

So how can be this Solar Roadways constructed? It will be a three layer system. The surface layer will be tough enough to bear the onslaught of weather and vehicles. The upper layer will be translucent and hence will be able to let the sunlight pass by. The middle layer will consist of large array of solar collecting cells. These cells will also store solar energy for later use. This middle electronic layer will be fitted with microprocessors that will control lighting, communications, monitoring etc. The third base layer will distribute power collected by the electronics layer to the units connected to the Solar Roadways. On top of that they will also distribute data signals such as phone, TV, Internet to homes and offices.

If this project can be implemented, it will be greatly beneficial. This system will eliminate the need of centralized power systems. Roads will be acting as power grids. This power system will go without poles, relay stations and transformers. This system can’t be shut down by any extremists or power company. This system will reduce the dependency on foreign oil.

Solar Roadways will facilitate the use of electric cars too. A major problem of electric cars is their refueling or recharging. Since Solar Roadways will have plenty of electricity charging of electric cars won’t pose any major problems. This will make cross country tour with electric car feasible.

Replacement of “normal” roads with Solar Roadways will generate green color jobs and give a required push to solar manufacturing industry. Another added benefit will be safety of drivers and wildlife. Since the roads will be intelligent roads they can warn drivers of impending dangers and wild animals venturing on the roads thus reducing the number of road accidents. Drivers can even be cautioned about the potentially dangerous drivers! The image below depicts an area in England where solar road studs light up the lines on the road and according to a recent study they have reduced night time accidents by 70%.

  • John De Reggi

    I am the president of De Reggi Construction and subsidiary of Alternative Energy Resources(AER). We a pretty slow these days in construction but fairly busy in AER. We just gave a presentation to the Maryland Senate and will repeat the service to the house of Delegates. My main concern with your idea is the durability and texture of the road surface. most Combination vehicles are in excess of 80,000 lbs regularly. This is in case you did not know a lot of weight. The snow plows don’t help your situation. I would think hydronic district heating might solve the plow issue. District heating systems have not been 100% successful. The beating that roadways need to withstand from the weight is bad enough expansion and contraction on hot sumer day and cool summer nights makes me suspect maintenance issues too. I think you may have a hard road ahead of you…

  • Edward Morin

    If we are to spend Billions in our nations infrastructure we should look into ways to incorporate solar energy solutions into the package if it make sense.

  • cathy

    I think that the rights of way on highways can be exploited right now with existing solar technology. Why wait?

    When the solar road panels are tested and ready for use, then any new roadbeds should be replaced with them.

  • jd

    What about using the solar on the side shoulders of the highways. That leaves the roads open for maintenance. I’m sure the energy could be transported from road sides, by genius thought. Any thoughts from the human mind are valid.

  • http://solarroadways.com Scott

    We presented the Solar Roadways to the U.S. Department of Transportation last year. We’re well aware of the 80,000-pound 300,000-mile ALF endurance test requirements. That’s what we’re designing around.

    If you look at the website, you’ll see that the surface of the road is heated, so snow plows won’t even be on the roads.

    Putting solar panels on the sides of the roads only adds to the cost, rather than investing the same money into the roads and replacing the petroleum-based asphalt. President Obama wants to rebuild the highway infrastructure and the power grid. We can combine both AND create millions of new “green” jobs in the process. The Solar Roadways is a stimulus package in itself.

    Solar Roadways has been nominated for the Lemelson-MIT Prize and is now one of five finalists in the EE Times ACE Awards.

  • Rachel Watson

    WOW! This is a very brilliant plan…you have got to get more people aware of these solar roadways so they can help persuade legislation. But I’m happy to hear about them and will definitely spread the news.

  • Jos Conil

    This concept is a great leap towards an eco friendly future. If it works out as the inventors claim, it is going to make a drastic change in the way the global economy functions.

    Also it will be a great thing we’re doing for our posterity.

  • ravi teja

    Yeah this is good idea, but what about the power requirements during night time?

  • http://www.solarroadways.com Julie

    For Ravi,

    Night time won’t pose a problem as energy can be transfered in any direction. For instance, from the went to the east after the east has gone dark, and from east to west in the morning.

  • AJ Ramos

    This idea is very brilliant. It could truly solve many of our country’s problems very quickly. The inventors are thinking big… we need a big solution to fix our big problems!

    I read the inquiry as to how the roads would be powered at night. As I understand it (don’t quote me I am not one of the inventors) the idea is that the roads will move the energy as needed nation wide (and maybe even internationally). Since the whole road is a gigantic energy grid the energy could be rapidly transferred to other parts of the country as needed. Not to mention the cells will store extra energy from the day that could be used later. I hope that helped to answer your question.

  • jeff hall

    Hey, Whatever it takes. We blow millions of dollars to countries that hate us on their only export. Oil. If we didn’t need their oil what would we need them for ? Sand? F@#% the mideast beast!

  • Ian Gould

    I think using roads as solar thermal collectors makes more sense – run pipes under the roads, pump water through for heating and hot water.

    Use a working liquid other than water and you can probably run a compressor for air conditioning during the summer.

  • chris

    What about cleaning requirements (especially in rural areas) and the shadows of vehicles in urban areas? Wouldn’t it reduce the energy output significantly?

  • http://www.solarroadways.com Julie

    There are many problems with that approach, Ian. First of all it would not power our nation- it doesn’t generate electricity. Another is that our government does not have the money to repair the current roads as it is. That would increase the cost as current road surfaces would still be needed. Another issue is that Solar Roadways is a whole package of features, such as lighting the roads for safer night driving, which would lower our accident rates, lower our insurance rates etc. Your plan would leave that and many other features out, while increasing costs. The other features are listed on the website, http://www.solarroadways.com

  • james martine

    This is not a bad idea, but what if one solar panel were to break on the solar road? Just think, would that stop everything else happening on that road? It’s a great idea but be more literal. Can the solar road hold the weight of a semi truck?

  • Alex

    What will happen with all the existing roads? Will these new panels be installed on top of the existing roads? Will we need to dump in land fills?

  • Bill Ferguson

    This is the best idea I’ve heard in a long time, now you need to open this idea up to the stock market and all the investors will generate all the income needed to get this up and running.

  • davidl007

    However this thing can be built the cheapest, whether by Wall Street or government, I’d be in favor of. Either way much of the installation should be done by the 2.4 million people in U.S. prisons to reduce the extremely high costs of the roadway. This would transform our prison systems and be beneficial to the prisoners and taxpayers if done in a wise and ethical manner. Additional ways to reduce the cost is to tie welfare benefits to it and even in a single payer health insurance system where high deductibles could be implemented to offset the unintentional consequence of increase demand in “free” health care services, the poor who cannot afford to pay the deductible could work on weekends or nights on the solar roadway. The point I hope Scott sees is that here is 2.4 million workers we’re already paying to do nothing, and it would free up the 2.4 million non incarcerated people who otherwise would be used for the solar roadway to create other goods and services that the public needs.(more wealth is thus created, lower deficits…a win win.)

    Another way to lower overall costs is to have high speed electric tracks next to and powered by the solar highway to be used to replace the semi trucks in transporting goods and to decrease overall auto traffic by providing high speed personal travel. This will lower maintenance costs of the roadway by taking the semis off of it and it will drastically lower shipping costs(no driver, fuel, less maintenance of transportation vehicle, goods get there 5-7 times faster to their destination). Imagine a shipping company having a fleet of individual, remote controlled train cars(not connected like a train just the cars themselves)and these driver less cargo cars are then sent anywhere in the U.S. by remote control at speeds of 300 mph. Imagine someone in New York wanting to travel to LA and instead of flying or driving he hops on a high speed train and arrives 12 hours later.

    I wonder if the glass on top of the road could be designed to have a magnifying effect to increase the energy each panel produces. If so this would mean less mileage of roadways would be needed which would lower costs.

    I also hope the solar roadway itself is aesthetically pleasing. I’m thinking a transparent roadway or one that is white would look like a sea of glass or ice. That would look nice.

  • davidl007

    Oh and a question for Scott. When you figured in the costs of each road panel, are you using the silicon solar panels or the printed solar panels made by say Nanosolar. The latter is much cheaper.

    Oh and who knew Al Gore’s phrase “internet superhighway” could be prophetic. haha you should use that phrase somehow in selling your idea.

  • Richard

    Sounds like you have put a lot of thought into this project. I have several thoughts.

    I believe you are intending to have standard sized pannels which makes sence from a manufacturing point of view, however man hole cover positions, sewer access pannels etc.. are not in set positions thus requiring holes in a pannel of varying sizes and positions. This may present a bulk manufacturing issue. Another manufacturing issue would be, are you assembling components manufactured elsewhere or are you producting your own solar cells, glass pannels, etc.. either method will require a lot of supply chains ,diverse sources for components supplier quality control etc..

    Are any actual pannels in use at this time or is this still just a great theory. If these pannels exist then a usefull product would be to allow homeowners to replace their driveways with your panneling and an appropriate hookup for the residence.

  • Rachel Watson

    Okay so the main problem I see is that is going to be really hard to get people on board with the whole plan. Advertisment will be necessary. Also I was thinking that since there is a “Rebuild America 2010” sign on almost every bridge I have been on lately so if you got enough people on board before they actually put workers to work on replacing these things then they could be replaced with solar roadways. That would be a good start to the probably slow process it will be to reconstruct the roadways everywhere.

  • thetransporter

    Why not water and sewage lines to go along with the tv, internet, telephone, and power lines?

    Would superconducting super grid power lines with no transmission loss act as a storage device instead of using ultra capacitors(Eestor)? Is the technology there for this?

    Solasta is an interesting solar cell enhancing start up that may be able to get the efficiency rates up to 66%. Kleiner/Perkins is involved with them. I’m thinking a partnership between Solasta and Nanosolar could be beneficial to getting very cheap highly efficient solar cells. http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/24240/page2/
    Another possibility(Scott has stated he’s talked to this Idaho lab about this technology. It could be 88% efficient and work in bad weather and night)http://www.ecogeek.org/content/view/1329/

    This would probably be too expensive to put this many LED’s in the thing but it would be cool if the road could look like this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niGDrvHYnew&feature=related

  • Rob Heusdens

    This idea and it’s potentials makes me think of an even greater idea: the road itself becomes a guiding system for your car (which is electronically equipped to do so), so you can just enter your destination and average speed, and off you go, guided by the road itself!

    And when using electric vehicles, the road can also fuel your car *while you drive*!

  • Mark Huisjes

    Sounds like a very good idea but there are some aspects here that hasn’t been thought of. Like: what are we going to do with all the asphalt out there. That could be converted into plastics but would eventually be an environmental disaster bigger than anything we’ve ever had. Secondly, the nearly bankruptcy of the oil producing states (nothing to export, no money, you get the picture).

    Bottom line: Great we need to do this, but we’ve to clean up after ourselves and help out the oil states.

  • Marlene Wilkinson

    So good to see people thinking and talking about this. I think it’s a wonderful idea and deserves to be given every chance. The more people that talk about it and draw attention to it, the better. May it gain momentum and attract people who can help.

  • Jordon

    Weather would tear this road to pieces Minnesota winters destroy current roads after every winter tax money has to be spent to repave roadways. Add to that snow and ice conditions how would that affect this idea?

  • http://twitter.com/marlenewilkinsn Marlene Wilkinson

    Jordon, you’ll be pleased to know your concerns were answered further up the chain of comments.


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