In Both US and Netherlands, Solar Roadways Could Pave The Way For Sustainability

The roadways of the U.S, while not paved with gold, could soon be paved with something better; energy.

Julie and Scott Brusaw have a dream, to turn a road into a sustainable power source. Their Solar Roadway Indiegogo campaign became one of the highest grossing crowd funded campaigns to date. With an initial target of a million dollars to create and install a sample of their vision for the future, their goal was more than doubled, reaching 220% funding last June.

Their design consists of heavy-duty hexagonal plates comprised of solar cells and a system of LEDs to light the roads at night. While most roads are paved with the heat absorbing asphalt, which requires regular repair due to cracking, Solar Roadway plates could be easily replaced singly, and can be heated to keep weather from accumulating on the road. The technology would completely change the face of road work as we understand it. Not only would there no longer be a need to close down entire roadways, but the roadways themselves would be providing power to surrounding areas, and perhaps even to the cars that drive on it.

So, for those who don’t want to watch the video above – in summary; no more icy roads, (money saved on plows and salt, accidents avoided) lit-up warning systems (less roadkill), easy repair (good-bye construction season), clean energy produced, water filtration provided, reduction of overhead power lines – it’s all pretty badass.

And as the Bursaw’s project is causing buzz here in the States, the Netherlands have already started taking the next step. In the bike-centric north, the idea has taken a slightly different path to the utilitarian dream of Solar Roadways.  In November of 2014, Daan Roosegaarde unveiled his own vision of a Smart highway

Though not all the solar road projects going on around the world are as beautiful as the Roosegaarde’s bike path, he is not alone in the dream to see technology change even the most mundane aspects of our daily life.

SolaRoad is another company in the same region also working to install solar bike paths. With only a small area having been installed, SolaRoad has already been making changes to the design as the practical use of the technology has turned up some areas in need of correction.

The practical solar roads of the Netherlands are being used by lightweight foot and bike traffic. How will this new technology fare with the sort of traffic one might see on a major U.S. highway, which, by the way, cover 3.9 million miles (6.3 million kilometers) in the U.S alone.

According to their Indiegogo Solar Roadway’s modular paving system can withstand 250,000 pounds, enough to support even large trucks. Electric and hybrid cars sales have grown in the last four years, and roadways that could potentially provide power and low-cost maintenance are an exciting idea, so why aren’t they happening now?

In the early 2000’s the Department of Transportation gave the first of two grants to the project, the first funding a prototype and the second, a whopping $750,000, was used to build a second “parking lot” array for testing. In addition to funding, the DoT also provided experts to further test the idea. In the end, DoT’s Eric Weaver, an engineer working on testing the product, had this to say,

We can’t say that it would be safe for roadway vehicular traffic, further field-traffic evaluation is needed to determine safety and durability performance.

However, the need for further testing doesn’t totally curb the progress that Solar Roadway is trying to make.

“I believe the application can be used for smaller scale purposes — potentially, pedestrian walkways and sidewalks that get lower load and have fewer safety considerations, for roads, there are so many unknowns.”

While the Burshaw’s have done years of their own testing, the DoT, as any part of the government body, has been slow to complete official testing. How many years will it take to cut through the red tape of bureaucracy to see our road ways generating power, no one can know. But the fact that the promise exists of a more sustainable future for our roadways is exciting.

Are you ready for solar-powered roads? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or visit our GrizzlyBomb Facebook page.

 Images: Solar Roadways

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