Solar Roadways Could Power the Country and Pave the Way for Smart Road Network

Solar Roadways First Prototype Rendering by Dan Walden

Scott Brusaw has unveiled the second phase prototypes of his innovative Solar Roadways concept and the technology behind it is starting to look more and more promising. Seeded by a childhood dream of driving on real-world Scalextric tracks, Scott Brusaw developed Solar Roadways as a means of combatting global warming and our reliance on fossil fuels. Brusaw claims that if the road systems of the lower 48 states of the USA were replaced with Solar Roadways, the panels could generate more electricity than the country currently consumes.

Rendering of a Solar Roadways Street by Sam Cornett

Solar Roadways would of course be a very costly investment but there’s no point pretending that asphalt roads are cheap either at roughly $20,000,000 per mile. It’s also worth remembering that our asphalt/tarmac roads that need replacing every decade or so are derived from oil, which will become more and more expensive before eventually running out.

Rendering of Phase II Hexagonal Solar Roadways Tiles by Sam Cornett

But what started out as a means of generating renewable electricity has evolved into so much more than that. Solar Roadways could set up the infrastructure for a smart road system, with LEDs incorporated into tiles for displaying road markings and hazards (and Mario Kart Rainbow Road?)

Solar Roadways Hazard Light Markings

A smart road system could also automatically notify authorities of damaged tile modules to be replaced, traffic jams, and crashes. Integrated heating elements within tiles can stop snow settling on the road in winter, and electrical cabling can be neatly laid at conduits to the side for easy access.

Demonstration of Heated Solar Roadways Tiles during Snow

The idea might sound outlandish and impossible to implement but Scott Brusaw isn’t expecting his solar panel road system to be put in place overnight. All new technology has to start somewhere and Solar Roadways has so far shown a very healthy development process with two rounds of funding from the Department of Transport and two phases of working prototype tiles. The plan is to first trial the system on pavements and parking lots before moving onto roads and finally highways.

Solar Roadways Tile Patio at Scott Brusaw's Home

The first prototype was unveiled back in 2012 and was made up of 12ft by 12ft square tiles. The second prototype is markedly different with a much smaller size and a hexagonal shape making it better suited for modular systems. These early versions make use of multiple standardised square solar arrays to fit to the hexagonal shape although mass produced versions would have custom made arrays to cover the entire surface.

Hexagonal Phase II Solar Roadways Glass Tiles

To some the idea of driving on glass might sound absurd but the tempered material developed for Solar Roadway tiles is pretty remarkable. It’s as strong as steel and has been given a textured surface that offers even better grip than asphalt. The legal weight limit for trucks is 80,000 pounds but as this isn’t often strictly adhered to, the glass tiles have been made to withstand weights greater than 250,000 pounds.

“Everyone naturally pictures sliding out of control on a smooth piece of wet glass! Actually, one of our many technical specs is that it be textured to the point that it provides at least the traction that current asphalt roads offer – even in the rain. We hesitate to even call it glass, as it is far from a traditional window pane, but glass is what it is, so glass is what we must call it.”

Textured Glass from Solar Roadways Tiles

Solar Roadways is currently running an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for further development. However unlike most of the crowdfunding campaigns we see, you aren’t actually pledging to receive a working product. This is due to the cost of Solar Roadways panels and because there is still a long way to before they can be manufactured economically.

Instead this is a flexible funding campaign in which Solar Roadways will receive the amount raised regardless of whether they hit their $1,000,000 target, and donors will receive Solar Roadways branded items such as mugs and T-shirts (although you can get your hands on samples of the textured glass for $1,000).

If you still have any questions relating to the practicalities of the Solar Roadways concept, then head over to their FAQ page where they’ve provided a wealth of information.

Scott Brusaw on Phase II Prototype Solar Roadways Patio

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  1. Reverend Ryan

    This is an absolutely brilliant concept. I’ve supported this idea for a couple of years. As more bright people contribute to this, it has improved dramatically. Imagine buying an electric car that ‘comes’ with a solar roadways driveway. Never buy gas again. Sweet.
    I have noticed naysayers jump on this like dogs on a rabbit. They haven’t even read the FAQ’s before starting in. I am glad to see this go viral.
    This starting point is a game changer: soon graphene technologies will contribute massive gains to solar collection ratios, electrical grid systems, storage systems, higher speed processors… not to mention composite materials that exceed “glass”. The road to the future looks like something out of Star Trek. Kick in a few dollars. I did.

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