An Idaho-based electrical engineer and entrepreneur believes he has the solution to the world’s future energy problems that will also do away with bitumen roads.
Scott Brusaw is the CEO of a company called Solar Roadways. The concept – in terms of its originality – is simply something else.
Mr Brusaw plans to pave the world’s roads with glass panels containing solar cells, LEDs and heating elements.
Mr Brusaw explains there is around 75,000 square kilometres of roads, driveways, parking lots and footpaths in the US. With current solar panels able to convert energy at an efficiency rate of around 18.5 percent, according to his calculations, the electricity generated in the US alone would almost be enough to meet the entire world’s energy requirements.
The LEDs act as active road paint, with the ability to display messages on the road surface including “slow down” speed detectors, illuminate the lines for safer night time driving and blink to indicate the presence of pedestrians or animals on the road.
The heating elements operate like a windscreen demister, preventing the accumulation of ice on the road.
Mr Brusaw says the glass panels would be as strong as steel, immune to potholes and capable of supporting normal traffic volumes.
Solar Roadways would spell the end for bitumen, which is currently made with petroleum.
An obvious issue is grip on the surface, but Mr Brusaw explains the glass will be textured to offer at least as much traction as a bitumen road, both wet and dry.
The Solar Roadways concept won a $US50,000 grant as a part of the ‘GE Ecomagination Challenge’, and is now in the second stage of the project: the prototype manufacturing phase.
There is one small detail we are yet to reveal: the price of creating glass solar roads. It’s estimated the technology would cost $US2.75 million ($2.78 million) per kilometre.
But Mr Brusaw says the cost of Solar Roadways would be roughly the same as producing bitumen roads with fossil fuel-burning electricity generation plants, but unlike standard roads, the solar ones would pay for themselves over time from an environmental, safety and infrastructure perspective.