Missouri’s Department of Transportation is planning an innovative reworking of the historic Route 66. An undetermined section of ‘America’s Highway’ is to be covered in solar panels from the Idaho startup, Solar Roadways.
“It gets Missouri and MDOT prepared for 21st-century innovations,” enthused Tom Blair, who heads the Road to Tomorrow initiative, in the Kansas City Star, adding, “We expect them to be in place, I’m hoping, by the end of this year, maybe before snow flies.”
Blair also told The Star that the bulk of its efforts will be crowd funded. After receiving a $100,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to build a prototype, and a pair of $750,000 research grants from the United States Department of Transportation, the group has raised more than $2 Million on its own to complete the project through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.
The Solar Roadway panels are tempered safety glass that is as strong as it is efficient. In addition to harnessing energy from the sun, they also come with LED lighting to efficiently replace road lines and signage.
“Our goal is to modernize the infrastructure with modular, intelligent panels, while producing clean renewable energy for homes and businesses,” the company’s website states. “We’ll be able to charge electric vehicles with clean energy from the sun, first on our solar parking lots and when we have enough highway infrastructure, while driving.”
And while it is obviously more expensive upfront, the panels do have the benefit of being completely modular, which would allow for quick and cheap repairs by just swapping out the broken panels rather than repaving entire stretches of road.