Our dependence on automobiles and the miles of asphalt required for them is considered by many to be one of the greatest problems with our current way of life, but what if these roads could be changed to be part of our green future?
The Department of Transportation has awarded $100,000 to Solar Roadways to build a 12′ by 12′ prototype road section to test their proposals for a solar highway. The idea behind the solar roadway is that the miles and miles of roadways would be able to harvest energy from the sun. With embedded LEDs that will light up for the centre lane and also flash messages to motorists regarding hazards or accidents up ahead.
Solar Roadways creator Scott Brushaw suggests that if every inch of America’s 25,000 miles of roadway infrastructure then the system would generate three times as much energy as the country consumed in 2006. The roadways would replace power lines and the energy would flow straight from the streets into our homes. Embedded heating elements would keep the roads clear of snow and ice, and eliminate the need for snow clearing services.
The Solar Roadways website has a lot of information and answers a number of questions about the uses and impacts of the technology. I suggest checking them out.
From Solar Roadways,
When multiple Solar Road Panels™ are interconnected, the intelligent Solar Roadway™ is formed. These panels replace current driveways, parking lots, and all road systems, be they interstate highways, state routes, downtown streets, residential streets, or even plain dirt or gravel country roads. Panels can also be used in amusement parks, raceways, bike paths, parking garage rooftops, remote military locations, etc. Any home or business connected to the Solar Roadway™ (via a Solar Road Panel™ driveway or parking lot) receives the power and data signals that the Solar Roadway™ provides. The Solar Roadway™ becomes an intelligent, self-healing, decentralized (secure) power grid.
Road Surface Layer – translucent and high-strength, it is rough enough to provide great traction, yet still passes sunlight through to the solar collector cells. It is capable of handling today’s heaviest loads under the worst of conditions. Weatherproof, it protects the electronics layer beneath it.
Electronics Layer – Contains a large array of cells, the bulk of which will contain solar collecting cells with LEDs for “painting” the road surface. These cells also contain the “Super” or “Ultra” caps that store the sun’s energy for later use. Since each Solar Road Panel™ manages its own electricity generation, storage, and distribution, they can heat themselves in northern climates to eliminate snow and ice accumulation. No more snow/ice removal and no more school/business closings due to inclement weather. The on-board microprocessor controls lighting, communications, monitoring, etc. With a communications device every 12 feet, the Solar Roadway™ is an intelligent highway system.
Base Plate Layer – While the electronics layer collects and stores the energy from the sun, it is the base plate layer that distributes power (collected from the electronics layer) and data signals (phone, TV, internet, etc.) “downline” to all homes and businesses connected to the Solar Roadway™. The power and data signals are passed through each of the four sides of the base plate layer. Weatherproof, it protects the electronics layer above it.