Idaho-based startup wants to turn the U.S.’s four million miles of roads into solar panels. In December, it started converting the parking lot of a Missouri rest stop into energy-harvesting photovoltaic cells. Streets and highways are next.
The Solar Roadways® journey began on an ordinary day as most life changing adventures do. Scott and Julie had known each other since they were small children, in southern California in the 1960’s when roads and highways looked, well – just like they do today!
Years later, married and living in Idaho, Scott and Julie were working in their garden and were feeling very concerned about climate and environmental issues. Julie wondered aloud whether roads could be made out of solar panels. We’d been contemplating buying rooftop solar panels out of concern for the environment. Suddenly, an image popped into Julie’s mind of solar panels on the driveway and the road. She asked Scott’s opinion of this idea, but he just laughed and said that would be impossible – the fragile solar panels would be crushed by cars.
Julie dismissed the idea, but Scott’s engineering mind just couldn’t let it go. About a week later, he said, “If we can design a protective case, then you might be onto something about that solar roadway idea.” We decided to brainstorm. Many hours were spent on a couch getting more excited as realization after realization flowed into us:
“We could add heating elements and roads would always be snow free.”
“We could make road lines out of embedded LEDs.”
“This would generate SO much renewable energy.”
“Those ugly wires could go into some kind of compartment alongside the roads.”
“We could use the panels for parking lots too.”
Idea to Lab (Pilot)
The rest stop, along Route 66 in Conway, Missouri, will include about 50 solar panels covered in durable glass. To start, the panels will be used on the sidewalk, with the goal of powering the building at the rest stop. If this phase is successful, the next step for the pilot could be to try the panels in the rest stop's parking lot, then the entrance and exit ramps. The eventual goal is to move onto streets and highways.
The company previously raised $2.2 million through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, and it received a $750,000 contract from the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct tests in 2011. The Conway test pilot is part of Missouri's Road2Tomorrow initiative to create futuristic highways.
Why Solar Roadways?
While homeowners can use solar energy to power their houses, governments need to come up with their own solutions to produce clean energy on a massive scale. This often requires large, open spaces and additional disruption to the landscape to create large solar panels or wind turbines.
How does this Solar technology solve the Winter problem?
The roads would heat themselves meaning little to no work to maintain them in winter.
Whats the revenue Model?
Governments can monetize the roads providing a second revenue beyond Tolls.
Phases of the Solar Roadways Project
Phase 1 - Parking Lots
Phase 2 - Streets
Phase 3 - Highways