After years of following and writing about solar roadways, I got the opportunity to meet Scott and Julie Brusaw. This encounter proved to be more exciting than I could have anticipated. Not only were they fun, friendly and informative, they presented at Jump Boise’s, central meeting place, and brought new insights and understanding to my already geek-level appreciation for the subject.
Solar roadways is their invention and that attempts to create a multi-faceted method to improve our roadways, harness the sun’s energy, improve information distribution and even solve water pollution from road runoff.
To provide an efficient look into the power and potential of solar roads, here is a video that breaks down the primary functions of the project.
Since that awesome video was created there have been new applications and improvements to the panels.
The efficiency has nearly doubled from the prototype to, now, produce 67 watts per tile. It is expected that efficiency and cost will continue to improve as economies of scale are applied and the panels are mass produced.
The gutter or shoulder of the roadway will house the infrastructure for electricity, internet and all communications hardware necessary to make all functions necessary.
The gutters are designed to route and power the filtering and cleaning of water runoff. Because the roads will be self-powering, the filtering will not require additional power to clean the runoff. It has been estimated that this will vastly improve water access and reduce drought.
Because the panels have thermostats, sensors and heat, they can not only clear the roads of snow by simply maintaining warmth, this solves issues with problematic helicopter landing strips in cold-weather areas like Antarctica. Not only can these panels provide illumination for the pilots to better find that landing spot, but can keep the strips safer by removing ice, which can create unstable and dangerous landings.
The panels have been tested and can withstand thousands of pounds of pressure, are modular for repair and last many times longer than regular asphalt surfaces.
Tests are currently being conducted to establish if they can handle the force of a 747 airplane landing on them. This would improve the pilots’ ability to get real-time information on wind direction and speed as well as modulate the lines of landing area in real time.
The technology is there and it has many applications not originally envisioned. As the threat of climate change and energy insecurity continue to cast a long shadow over humanity, it is encouraging to know that there are visionaries who are working to solve these problems and others along their way.
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