While solar roadways have been gaining traction throughout European nations such as the Netherlands, they will also soon be in the U.S. Starting with Route 66 in Missouri, as a part of Missouri’s Road to Tomorrow initiative.
And we aren’t talking years of waiting, either. Actually, according to Tom Blair, who works for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT),
“It gets Missouri and MoDOT prepared for 21st-century innovations. We expect them to be in place, I’m hoping, by the end of this year, maybe before snow flies. If [Solar Roadway’s] version of the future is realistic, if we can make that happen, then roadways can begin paying for themselves.”
The first solar roadway was built in the Netherlands back in 2014. Following suit, France then announced last January that they would install 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of solar roads that could supply power to over five million people. Then, on December 22, 2016, they opened the world’s first solar road for cars.
Now, an Idaho-based Solar Roadways company has received three months of U.S government funding to test the technology here.
“We have interested customers from all 50 states and most countries around the world,” says Julie Brusaw, who co-founded Solar Roadways with her engineer husband Scott.
She and her husband have proposed for all traditional asphalt roads to be replaced with structurally-engineered solar panels that could feed the electric grid during the day, and also reduce the number of greenhouse emissions quite drastically.
“Our original intent was to help solve the climate crisis,” says Brusaw.
“We learned that the U.S. had over 72,000 square kilometers of asphalt and concrete surfaces exposed to the sun. If we could cover them with our solar road panels, then we could produce over three times the amount of energy that we use as a nation — that’s using clean, renewable energy instead of coal.”
The new solar roadways could be described as tempered-glass roads that are composed of a “modular system of specially engineered solar panels that can be walked and driven upon. Our panels contain LED lights to create lines and signage without paint and contain heating elements to prevent snow and ice accumulation.”
What makes them even greater, is that rather than entire roads needing to be replaced in the case that it becomes damaged, only a small panel would need to be replaced. Not only would solar roadways end up being cheaper in the long run, they are better for our health, the environment, and provide a good source of renewable energy. And thankfully, we could all be looking at having them on our roads quite soon!