Solar roadways could be heated to prevent icing and lighted for safety.
One of the attractive aspects of solar power is that the energy is available to be collected every day, all around the world. There is no environmental impact on the planet in collecting solar power, and that energy will only run out when the sun burns itself out, which is not estimated to occur for millions of years.
Today, companies around the world are creating ways to collect solar power without building the huge solar farms that have dotted the landscape in the United States and elsewhere.
For instance, an Idaho-based company named Solar Roadways is developing just that, a roadway that can collect solar energy and turn it into electricity that can heat the roadways, and light them as well. A grant from the Federal Highway Administration and crowdfunding is keeping Solar Roadways moving forward, as it works to meet its first order for sidewalks and parking lots in its hometown of Sandpoint, Idaho.
Looking forward, the company imagines being able to collect enough energy to power homes. A third possibility, which seems feasible when you consider the electricity the prototype roadways are producing, is far-reaching in its effect on the world.
“How about this for a long-term advantage: an electric road allows all-electric vehicles to recharge anywhere: rest stops, parking lots, etc.,’’ the website solarroadways.com offers. “They would have the same range as a gasoline-powered vehicle. Internal combustion engines would become obsolete. Our dependency on oil would come to an abrupt end.”
Assuming the technology works, any current road, parking lot or sidewalk could be converted into a solar-powered heated and lighted surface.
Scott Brusaw, co-owner of Solar Roadways with his wife Julie, has done the math on available surfaces for solar panels and has come away believing this idea could change the world. He says if all the flat surfaces paved in the United States today for roads, parking lots, sidewalks and playgrounds were converted into solar collection surfaces, they would collect more than three times the energy required to fulfill the electrical needs of the country.
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, Brusaw’s plan is already being put to use.
SolaRoad is a product produced by the Netherlands company TNO that has installed a 328-foot section of a commuter bike path in the town of Krommenie with its own solar roadway. Just that short section could generate enough energy to fuel two or three households a year.
The solar cells are encased in two layers of tempered safety glass and then mounted in a concrete housing. Creating the solar cells was not the challenge, according to company officials. Instead, it was creating a covering that could serve as a safe road surface.
“It has to be translucent for sunlight and repel dirt as much as possible,” the company said. “At the same time, the top layer must be skid resistant and strong enough in order to realize a safe road surface.”
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.