There is no question that the United States is blessed both with some of the world's best solar resources and the largest highway network in the world.
Put two and two together and you may just have the solution to America's energy problem. At least that's what Solar Roadways inventor Scott Brusaw believes.
Brusaw's company was just awarded a $100,000 grant by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (DOT) for one of the most visionary solar projects ever conceived -- to convert America's roadways into the world's largest solar energy system.
According to Brusaw, the lower 48 states contain about 25,000 square miles of roadways. If these roadways collected solar energy at 15 percent efficiency, they would supply three times the annual energy consumption of the United States.
And perhaps even more exciting, the roadways themselves would become the "super grid" of the future, freely conducting energy to urban centers through a network of relays sheltered in the road's base layer.
Now, that is not going to be an easy task. The Solar Roadways system could make use of current thin film technology (which has reached efficiencies of 10 percent) but the road layer also includes a grid of LED's to allow digital striping of the roads, a feature which adds to the whopping price tag -- $6900 for a 12' x 12' panel (producing 7.6 kWh's of electricity per day).
In addition, the protective layer would have to be both translucent and durable enough to withstand the wear and tear of the nation's trucking fleet. We're talking a lot of high-strength plastic (probably polyvinyl) which would mean huge environmental impacts (and lots of petroleum).
Nevertheless it is one brilliant idea. It will be interesting if the DOT grant will result in a working prototype that may garner further research and funding.
The above interview is part of a new film called YERT (Your Environmental Road Trip) which documents some of the best out-of-the box solutions to our climate crisis.
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