Imagine a road paved with solar panels that can recharge your electric car, warn of upcoming hazards and even power your home, all in one system.
Idaho startup Solar Roadways hopes to make this possible using hexagon-shaped solar panels that are laid on the road in place of asphalt.
Each solar panel covers an area of a little less than 4.5 feet square and is hermetically sealed with tempered glass.
The panels have embedded LED lights that can be programmed for a variety of purposes, including lane markings on highways, crosswalks, and parking lot configurations.
Sensors in the panels can detect objects on the road up ahead and warn drivers to slow down using signs directly illuminated on the road.
An obvious issue is cost, but that could be mitigated. The panels include an integrated heating element that prevents roads from freezing, so towns could avoid sending out fleets of snow plows in winter.
And of course, the solar panels produce clean energy which can be used to help power cities. Eventually, your driveway could power your home and parking lots could help power a business.
Solar Roadways says its solar panels can withstand weights of up to 250 thousand pounds and last 20 years.
The whole idea sounds fanciful and it’s still early days, but Solar Roadways says it’s completed three rounds of testing with the US Department of Transportation. It’s also working with the state of Missouri, which will test the panels on a section of sidewalk as part of the state’s “Road to Tomorrow” initiative to generate new revenue for the transportation system.
“We are working with Solar Roadways and the Federal Highway administration. Our goal is to actually have, by the time snow flies this year, Solar Roadway, actual panels installed at the route 66 welcome center at Conway, Missouri.”
Blair said that if the system is successful, the state will consider expanding the project to its roads.
Solar Roadways isn’t the only company doing this. French civil engineering firm, Colas is developing a solar road technology called Wattway. The French government has said it plans to resurface 621 miles of road using these seven-millimeter-thick solar panels that stick directly to the road.
Solar Roadways raised over $2 million on INDIEGOGO. If the concept picks up steam, our streets could soon look like something out of the movie TRON.