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Sustainable Highways of the Future

Sustainable Highways of the Future

In 2006, Scott and Julie Brusaw were motivated by the frightening reality of global warming to create their startup company, Solar Roadways Inc. They were inspired by the potential of solar energy technology, but acknowledged that the panels would need to be implemented on a large scale in order to prove a practical option. Instead of covering large patches of the land in solar panels, which would not be environmentally friendly, they saw the already paved over, endless roads of America as a logical place to put their solar panels.

The solar panels would need to be made of a material much sturdier than the traditional silicon in order to withstand the heavy traffic of American highways. The Brushaws found the solution to this problem in the material that comprises aircraft black boxes. In their current applications, these boxes can protect electronics from even the worst crashes. Using this material to cover the solar panels in roadways would allow the panels to function both under the heavy weight of cars and trucks, and in inclement weather like rain and snow.

From this basic design came all sorts of easily incorporated safety features, which would make solar roadways function significantly better than traditional asphalt roads. For example, LEDs would be used to mark the lanes instead of paint, meaning that the roads would be lit up at night, improving the safety of nighttime driving. Another built-in safety element would be a heating system which could operate like a vehicle’s windshield defrost, melting dangerous ice and snow from roads, and making winter driving drastically safer.

The Brusaws continued to find additional ways to adapt their solar panelled roads, making them safer and more effective than the conventional roads that we use today. In 2009, after stating their case, they received a contract from the Federal Highway Administration to build a prototype of their model. Their finished product was a success, showing that solar roadways could be part of a practical solution to the world’s energy problem.

In addition to harnessing vast amounts of renewable energy and instituting safer means of transportation, the Brushaw’s design has a secondary environmental benefit. With their newly generated green electricity, the roadways could easily provide recharge stations at rest stops along the roads, making long-distance travel via electric car a feasible option. This would likely incentivise more car companies to produce all-electric cars, bringing the cost down to a comparable level with other cars, and making that green technology more readily available. Thus, as a result of the implementation of solar roadways, the proportion of electric cars on the road would soar, drastically reducing pollution, while providing safe roads, and most importantly a dependable supply of clean energy.

-Alexandra T. and Effie T.

(Photography by Jane C.)

Check out the Brushaw's video about their new, groundbreaking technology! Also, take a look at their website here.