America's roads could someday provide power to the world

Tue, 06/03/2014 - 10:31

As technology advances, people are finding more uses for the sun than ever before. What used to only be done by plants is now a function of many buildings throughout the world: converting the sun's rays into heat and energy. Radiant heaters adopt the effects the sun has on pavement to warm houses with electric floor heating. By transferring energy from surface to surface, these heaters save energy when compared to other conventional methods for warming a building, among a host of other benefits.

Solar panels perform their own version of photosynthesis to power entire buildings in a much more sustainable alternative to gas, coal and oil. These innovations are adapted more and more as people realize the financial and environmental benefits they bring, but some people have hopes to make these advantages even more widespread.

Solar Roadways around America
Scott and Julie Brusaw came up with the idea to replace the concrete, asphalt and gravel of roadways throughout the United States with a series of solar panels in 2006, according to Gizmag. They brought their idea to the attention of the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, which believed the concept was viable enough to warrant funding of a prototype. Solar Roadways were installed in a parking lot and are now part of a road in Idaho in a second stage of testing with a position to expand across the country.

Scott Brusaw, and electrical engineer, calculated that if Solar Roadways were installed on all major roads in the U.S., they would generate three times the amount of electricity needed for the entire country, reported Jetson Green. These hexagonal panels are assembled like blocks and resistant to up to 250,00 pounds of pressure with solar cells covering 69 percent of their surface area. Since the panels are modular, if one were to break, only that specific piece would need to be replaced instead of the whole grid coming down.

The Brusaws envision a world where, in addition to roads, sidewalks, bike paths, parking lots and paved recreation areas are covered with these solar panels, making use of all of that often unused space and the the sun's rays.

More than just energy
The Solar Roadways have a wide array of other benefits as well that affect many aspects of life and solve numerous other problems. A driveway with these panels installed can release heat similar to outdoor radiant heaters that can melt snow and ice during the winter. Another main feature of the Solar Roadways is the LED lights installed in them that can display traffic warnings, lanes and notifications for obstructions further ahead on the road such as broken branches or wild animals.

Underneath these proposed roads are two channels for power lines, fiber optic cables, rainwater drainage and treatment plants that can not only eliminate the need for overhead power lines, but reduce the pollution in U.S. waterways, as stated by Jetson Green. The panels are made with as much recycled material as possible, with 10 percent of the base layer composed of reused glass.

Solar Roadways work toward a brighter future. With their implementation, the roads of the country can provide more than enough clean electricity to power homes and buildings all over. Combined with existing technologies utilizing other solar properties such as radiant heating, the sun can lead the way to a greener future. Incorporating these innovations into people's day-to-day lives begin the savings that accumulate over time to make technology like this pay for itself.