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Idaho Couple Develops a Solar Panel Road

Julie and Scott Brusaw are an ordinary couple with an extraordinary idea. It started out as simple question:  “wouldn’t it be neat if the roads we drove on and that asphalt parking lot we just passed could generate its own energy?” But what at first seemed like a random thought has turned into a pilot project that is taking place in their home state of Idaho. The Brusaws hope that if it works, their idea will make for safer and more environmentally friendly roadways for all.

How it Would Work

While it seems implausible at first, it actually makes sense when you think about it. Instead of just putting down regular roads, the Brusaw’s idea is to put down solar panels. Once in place, the solar panels would be able to generate electricity and feed it into the grid.  Drivers of electric cars could get a charge as they drove. The use of asphalt, which requires large amounts of oil in its production, could be greatly reduced or even eliminated altogether, making for a greener world all around.

Safer Travels

In addition to being an environmentally-conscious idea, the Brusaw’s idea may also create a safer driving experience. They envision the solar panels serving double-duty as LED screens, which could display road signs, warnings, and other information. Sounds impossibly futuristic? Perhaps. But imagine how useful it would be to have traffic and other information displayed on the road in front of you!

Starting Small

This is one idea that is going to take some time. The Brusaw’s first step is  creating walking paths, bicycle paths, and parking lots that feature solar panels in their design. Putting down solar roads in these locations would serve as a testing ground to see just how this brilliant little idea fares in the world. If things go well, they hope to partner with a company to expand their idea to major roadways.

How Does a Solar Panel Road Work?

While the Brusaws are still working to perfect their panels, they’ve got a pretty good design down pat already. Each solar panel has a tough outer layer that’s made of thick glass and that holds the actual solar panels in addition to their lighting and heating units. That layer sits on top of a layer containing the control device that enables the panels to turn on the lights and that sends information to the panels. Finally, there’s a third layer that takes care of sending the electrical current to homes, electric car chargers, and more.

The Pilot Project

The state of Idaho recently awarded the Brusaws a $750,000 grant to put their idea into action. The couple has already created a solar parking lot in Sandpoint, Idaho, which is currently undergoing testing. If things turn out as the Brusaws hope, this parking lot could be the start of something very big. You can learn more about this project on the Solar Roadways website.