Solar road could change how we power the world

The Solar Roadway hopes to use the large, flat areas provided by roads to generate solar power, decreasing the reliance on fossil fuel energy.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
2 min read

Solar Roadways

What if one single source of renewable energy could replace our reliance on coal-fired energy? That's the dream of electrical engineer Scott Brusaw, who, for the better part of a decade, has been working on just such a project. His idea? Cover all the roadways and parking lots in the US with photovoltaic panels to harvest the power of the sun.

In the intervening eight years, Brusaw and his wife have received two rounds of funding from the US Federal Highway Administration to develop Solar Roadways.

The Solar Roadways system consists of interlocking tempered glass hexagonal panels, which have been tested for impact, load and traction. Embedded in these panels are photovoltaic panels that harvest the power of the sun, making use of the wide expanses of road and parking lots, many of which can sit empty for long periods of time. These panels, the Brusaws say, can be hooked up to homes and businesses via driveways and parking lots.

"A nationwide system could produce more clean renewable energy than a country uses as a whole," Brusaw writes. "They have many other features as well, including: heating elements to stay snow/ice free, LEDs to make road lines and signage, and attached Cable Corridor to store and treat stormwater and provide a 'home' for power and data cables."

This may sound like an unrealistically lofty goal, but the idea is being taken seriously. It has won awards and nominations from GE, the World Technology Award, Google and the IEEE Ace Awards, and Brusaw has spoken at TEDx, NASA, and Google's Solve for X.

In fact, the project is about to enter Phase II testing, and is seeking funding on Indiegogo to produce enough solar panels to build a prototype parking lot -- following which the Brusaws plan to sell the product to individuals before taking it to the roads.

"We need to make a few tweaks to our product and streamline our manufacturing process so that we can make our panels available to the public as quickly as possible," Brusaw wrote."With your help, we can move into manufacturing quickly and begin installing sidewalks, parking lots, driveways, playgrounds, patios, etc., and then when we feel we are ready, we'll begin to install roads and highways."

The Brusaws are seeking US$1 million, but with flexible funding will receive all funds donated on Indiegogo. Head over to the Solar Roadways campaign page for more information on the project and to pledge your support.