What if all of our roads were covered in solar panels? That was the question asked by Scott and Julie Brushaw, and electrical engineer and a counselor from the US state of Idaho. They decided to find out by making a prototype, and next thing they knew they were being given funding by the Federal Highway Administration and had people like Google and NASA paying attention to them. Watch the videos below to find out more.
A short documentary video by Michele Ohayon
According to the inventors, the USA has approximately 28,000 square miles of roads and concrete surfaces exposed to the sun. Covering all that surface area even in low-efficiency solar panels, he says, would produce triple the amount of power the country needs.
Some have brought up a valid point — if you want to cover a country in solar panels, why not put them on all the roofs? After all, they’ll be more exposed to the sun and won’t have to have cars driving over them. However, the point of Solar Roadways is that it creates a big interlinked energy grid. Scott envisions electricity being pumped into your house via your road and your driveway, and electric cars being able to park up just about anywhere for a quick re-charge. He also points out that roads are made using oil-based materials, making them subject to severe price fluctuations. His invention therefore would kill two birds with one stone — it would produce clean energy and eliminate the need to use oil in the building process (the support structure for the roads would be made from recycled materials).
Will the idea ever take off? Can they overcome the various technical and engineering challenges involved? We’ll leave you to decide while you watch another video from the Solar Roadways website.