Alternative Energy highway

Published on February 17th, 2010 | by Jennifer Lance

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Idaho Man Builds 12 Foot Solar Road

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Necessity is the mother of invention, and garage inventors have been meeting the challenge of climate change head on.  From building their own electric cars to home alternative energy systems, many pioneers of the green movement are regular people who love to tinker.  Take for example Idaho resident Scott Brusaw.  Brusaw has built a 12 foot square solar road in his friend’s garage.  

Photo by kerosene photography
Some day America's highways could be paved in solar.

Some day America's highways could be paved in solar.

Imagine America paved with roads that produce energy.  The U.S. Department of Transportation believes it’s a real possibility and funded Brusaw’s project.  The Boise Weekly explains:

This full-bearded North Idaho tinkerer wants to rip up the pavement and replace it with an intelligent road system complete with solar panels to generate electricity. It may sound like a wacky inventor’s pipe dream, but the U.S. Department of Transportation gave Brusaw, an electrical engineer, a $100,000 contract last year to research solar roads. The money came through the DOT’s Small Business Innovation Research Program. That initial money is meant for research, but Brusaw has taken it a step further.
“I thought, you know, I can build this,” said Brusaw. He started Solar Roadways four years ago with his wife Julie. “If they’re going to give me 100 grand, I’ll take half of it and buy the parts I need and put it together.”

Treehugger first reported on Brusaw’s solar road invention almost three years ago with some doubt that it would be feasible, and the Infrastructurist has called it a “dubious green scheme”.   Whether you feel this idea is “farfetched” or not, the possibilities are exciting to contemplate considering the miles and miles of roads on the planet.
Solar Roadways consist of “three basic layers“:

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.

Brusaw believes the concept is not limited to roadways and envisions parking lots, driveways, and playgrounds to be surfaced with solar panels.  Critics believe the cost of ripping up American’s roads and replacing them with solar roadways would be cost prohibitive.  Others propose building solar canopies over roads would be a better solution.  Whether solar canopies or solar roadways, America’s highways could be part of our green energy revolution.



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