Forget Walking on Sunshine – How About Driving?
Global warming is a big issue in politics and has been for a little while now. It is thought that the biggest global contributors to greenhouse gases and our changing climate are car emissions, and everything involved in the production and maintenance of roads and highways, but no one quite seems to know what to do about it.
But one US couple from Idaho, electrical engineer Scott Brusaw and his wife Julie, may have an answer – Solar Roadways.
Doing their research, the Brusaws learned that the US alone had nearly 45,000 square miles, or 72,000 square kilometres, of concrete and asphalt roads exposed to the sun all day long. The couple thought about what it could mean if they could lay specially-designed solar panels down as roads instead, and worked out that solar roads could result in three times the amount of power that the US uses as a nation.
For their plan to work, they would need to develop solar panel cases that could withstand different weather conditions, as well as great amounts of weight and possible impact, particularly when considering sensitive electronics would be stored inside. This would mean super-strong glass panels, a way of lighting and marking the road that would not block out solar energy (so highway paint was out of the question), heating elements so that ice and snow would not be an issue in low temperatures, as well as a texture that would provide enough traction for cars to stay on the road.
Scott and Julie received their first project contract from the government in 2009, and having worked on their Solar Roadways for the last five years have now passed the testing stage (in a carpark that was laid adjacent to their electronics lab) and are awaiting funding to move on to manufacturing.
LED lights are fitted into the solar road panels, which not only act as road markers, but also illuminate the road at night and could even warn drivers of any dangers on the road ahead.
Other factors that have been taken into consideration are the aforementioned heating elements to keep the roads clear of snow and ice; ‘dead spots’ in mobile phone signals can be eliminated because of wiring; modern traffic systems; and potentially lowered accident rates that would be down to the additional safety features. The stored solar energy could also be used to generate electricity for the entire country.
“In the US, roughly half of greenhouse gases are generated by burning fossil fuels to create electricity,” explained Scott. “Another 25% comes out of our tailpipes. By replacing coal with solar and making electric vehicles practical, which could lead to the end of internal combustion engines, we could theoretically cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 75%.”
Scott and Julie hope to have Solar Roadways ready to go by the end of this year or early 2015, but to do so they need to raise the money to fund manufacturing. They’re on crowd funding website Indiegogo, and at the time of writing had raised $132,500 (£79,000) of their $1 million target.
If you want to find out more or contribute to Solar Roadways, you can do so here.