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Scott Brusaw, an Electrical engineer, has unveiled a system that could be very useful to generate electricity - using roads. In fact, roads are long strips of land that are constantly exposed to the elements and make up a significant piece of land. Because of the high visual impact of solar farms, he thinks that converting the roads to a strip-like solar farm can be a good solution.

He created a 3-layer system to replace tarmac: the upper layer would be translucent and able to let the sunlight pass by, yet weatherproof. The middle layer would contain the electronics, including LEDs which would allow for easy lane reconfiguration and the solar cells that would capture electricity. This electricity could be stored and used to heat the road which would benefit winter traffic. The bottom layer would protect from the soil humidity while being also able to host communication cables and other systems.

Brusaw thinks that if the US Interstate Highway system was replaced with his system, with an solar cell efficiency of 10 percent, it could power the whole country. Solar Roadways estimate that in five years they will have a working prototype stretched from Sandpoint to Coeur d'Alene.

Other similar projects have been developed in Europe. In the Netherlands, investigators are working on a system that uses thermo-solar energy to de-ice roads, but has also grown into an "intelligent" road that can give instructions to drivers. UK's M1 highway (ok, motorway) has a similar system in a gas station in Toddington. France has been sponsoring projects that include solar panels on roads.

Related:

[Source: Solar Roadways via Econoticias]



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  • 19 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Whatever way they end up using the highway system for power generation it would be awesome in many ways because it brings the electricity grid fully in touch with the road network - think of the following:
      -> Lights could light up the entire freeway system and beyond at night while collecting the energy on-the-spot during daytime. For LEDs even bad weather would produce enough solar energy.
      -> Our electric cars could be recharged through inductive charging systems operating below the road surface while cruising along on top of them. That way you would arrive at your destination and still have, say, 80% of your battery charged up, even for cars with small battery capacity (if you travel a lot on major roads at least).
      -> Road heating was already mentioned, which makes a lot of sense, as the salt used to deice roads nowadays is quite harmful for the environment. Also, temperature could be tweaked in order to achieve the least roll resistance with tires and thus increase mpg /reduce l/km and lengthen tire lifetime.
      -> Traffic loads could be measured more precisely than today and this information could be used to feed your satellite navigation system to divert you even more cleveryl than what is happening today.
      -> Roads could more cleverly warn you before dangerous areas such as slip roads and joining lanes. The UK is actually leading in this area, with little lights igniting such areas in designated colours on the motorways.
      -> Roofing the motorways with solar panels would prevent them from being snowed upon.
      -> Can you think of more, there sure are.

      It is exciting times we are livin in...
      • 7 Years Ago
      A road like this just begs for intelligence. Your car could drive itself. You could just sit back and practice your Japanese. (Well, that's what I would do) No worrying about falling asleep and leaving your lane. No getting lost on confusing interchanges. Oh! You could drive drunk! This keeps getting better and better.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I don't think something like this could withstand 80,000-pound (36,000kg) trucks driving over it all day.
      • 3 Months Ago
      I am interested on your invention.

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      • 3 Months Ago
      This concept came up on www.treehugger.com, and the comments were about the same. Basically, no one needs to be an engineer to figure out roofs are better places to put solar panels than roads.

      I had a Tudor style house, and when I was thinking about space issues for PV panels, the idea of those driveways where grass grows between two strips of concrete came to mind, and lining up a row of PV panels between where the car tires would drive crossed my mind for about 15 seconds. The notion was quickly replaced with the more practical idea that it'd make more sense to build a trellis over the patio and put more panels on it.
      • 7 Years Ago
      the panels would not stay translucent for very long. Rubber, road dirt, etc... would reduce it in days.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Personally, I'm having a hard time imagining a realistic solar technology that can hold up to typical road conditions. If it can't handle potholes, trucks and snowplows - while also being cost effective - it simply won't fly.

      However: Even a genius doesn't need an evening walk next to a road that's been baked all day in the August sun to figure out that there's a ton of thermal energy in that roadbed. There *are* existing technologies that can extract thermal energy from a large concrete mass. And I suspect it'd be easier to develop applications along this line that can tolerate today's highway environment. Hmmmm - Some interesting ideas to think about...



      • 3 Months Ago
      Hi road techs
      We have a few ideas on this subject perhaps you could comment. Dispense with the solar power its old hat and just green, under powered and expensive.Similar idea but using the rotation of car wheels on a motorway grid system (fuel already paid for ) using a linear accelerator to generate power to a collection grid with transfer to usable power to the grid or locally to the lighting system adjacent to the m-way.
      Individual powered vehicles already funded, costs involved in linear generation and grid transfer.Only local installation required no requirement to totally line a motorway as we let the traffic do the generating,
      Any thoughts appreciated
      hot tarmac,
      • 3 Months Ago
      I like the idea, but I can't figure out what they'd make the roadway out of that would let in light and be strong enough. And cheap enough. My first mental image was the surface would be some sort of glass-like material, which I have to say would be somewhat slippery when wet...

      Learning more about Sustainable Living at:
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      • 3 Months Ago
      That solar panels over the road (or driveway) is actually a pretty good idea. That could keep rain/snow off the roads and be available to the sun for the entire day time. And, it could still be smart and drive our cars for us when we are drunk. ^_^
      • 7 Years Ago
      I fantasized about this before. I think one thing I thought of was that dirt and sand will be annoying. Unless the city pays for the cleaning of roads with all its electricity revenue.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I wonder how many of the guys making negative comments here are engineers who have studied the technology at the level the engineers who designed it have?

      Why are we talking about using snow plows on a heated road?

      Cars blocking all the light to the road? Maybe in L.A. but in most areas there is a lot of space between vehicles. I'm sure the guys who designed this have factored in sun blockage from vehicles.
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