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Solar Panel & Roads? Electrical Engineer Introduces New Solar-Powered Roadways

First Posted: May 15, 2014 04:29 PM EDT
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Solar Roadways Project

Photo : By Dan Walden (http://www.solarroadways.com/hirespics.html) [CC-BY-SA-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

After an Idaho couple thought of the idea to transform America's roads and highways into a solar powered system -- similar to miniature speed tracks children play with on their living room floors -- Scott and Julie Brusaw's years of research now require funding to complete their Solar Roadways project.

Scott, an electrical engineer, and his wife Julie have spent the last five years perfecting their solar powered project after first receiving a government contract in 2009.

The Brusaw's proposal was to replace petroleum-based asphalt highways with a system of structurally engineered solar panels that become a massive energy generator. It would feed the energy grid during the day and could also recharge electric vehicles while moving, according to CNN.

The idea, if proved successful, would substantially reduce greenhouse emissions during a time when the world's top climatologists are urging nations to make drastic changes to the way it consumes and gathers energy.

"Our original intent was to help solve the climate crisis," Scott said. "We learned that the U.S. had over 72,000 square kilometers of asphalt and concrete surfaces exposed to the sun. If we could cover them with our solar road panels, then we could produce over three times the amount of energy that we use as a nation -- that's using clean, renewable energy instead of coal."

The duo first began to develop super-strong textured glass to offer vehicles enough traction, and then they embedded solar cells into the glass cases that were painted over with highway lines.

To test out their invention, the couple installed the prototype into the parking lot next to their electronics lab. The Solar Roadways parking lot was a success and now the couple is seeking funding through Indiegogo to raise enough money for full-scale production.

"(The solar panels) prevented snow and ice accumulation this past winter and are producing the expected amount of power -- the parking lot is equivalent to a 3600W solar array," Scott said. "The panels have passed testing for vehicles weighing up to 125 tons without breakage. Our textured surface has been traction tested and can stop a vehicle traveling 128kph on a wet surface in the required amount of distance."

Scott said the solar road panels could be installed in motorways, parking lots, pavements and even playgrounds that would also prevent accidents and reduce carbon emissions pollutants, CNN reported.

"In the U.S., roughly half of greenhouse gases are generated by burning fossil fuels to create electricity," Scott said. "Another 25 percent comes out of our tailpipes. By replacing coal with solar and making electric vehicles practical -- which could theoretically cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 75 percent."

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