Solar Roadways — a startup developing solar powered road panels — will soon install the first solar road tiles in Sandpoint, Idaho.
Solar Roadways was founded in 2006 and it aims to replace asphalt-based roads with solar panels that can withstand traffic. The company claims that the solar-powered road panels could be driven and walked on just like normal roads.
The solar road panels developed by the company are transparent and they contain colorful LEDs, which can be controlled by a computer to create the impression of signs and lines without the need of paint as required on regular roads. The panels also include heating elements that prevent the accumulation of ice and snow on the road panel's surface.
"The panels have microprocessors, which makes them intelligent. This allows the panels to communicate with each other, a central control station, and vehicles. Many people are surprised to learn that our panels are made of glass... but not ordinary glass. SR panels are made of specifically formulated tempered glass, which can support the weight of semi-trucks. The glass has a tractioned surface, which is equivalent to asphalt," says Solar Roadways.
Apart from lighting itself up, the solar road panels can also generate enough energy to power nearby restrooms and fountains. Each panel is quite heavy and they can withstand harsh environments.
"If these are on your driveway, they're bolted together. They can weigh 70 pounds each, they're not going anywhere. A tornado or hurricane can pass right over the top of them," says Scott Brusaw, the founder of Solar Roadways.
Brusaw says that there are more than 28,000 square miles of paved surfaces across 48 states in the U.S. If the entire paved surface is covered with solar road panels, then the country will produce three times more energy that what is needed.
The solar road panels are still in development stages, but Sandpoint in Idaho is the first town where the novel road tiles are currently being tested. The company aims at making the solar road panels available for highways in the near term.
The testing of the solar road panels in Sandpoint includes only 30 panels, but the project shows that the solar road tiles are more than theoretical exercises.
Energy from fossil fuels leads to the emission of harmful gases in the environment, which results in global warming. Countries are focusing to harness energy from natural sources such as the Sun, which is free and does not emit harmful gases in the environment. It remains to be seen if solar road panels make their way to more public roads in the near term.