What if the roads we drive on daily were the key to energy independence and a massive reduction of greenhouse emission? It seems unlikely, but not according to Julie and Scott Brusaw, the two engineers behind Solar Roadways.
Solar Roadways is a green energy company that’s committed to building roadways that use solar technology. In 2006, they launched an Indiegogo campaign that raised $2.24 million (the campaign is now in demand, meaning it can continue to accept ongoing donations). Since then, the husband-and-wife team have been hard at work building prototypes and conducting interviews to help spread the word about what they promise to be a revolutionary innovation across the globe.
But they’re not the only ones to think so. In 2014, Solar Roadways was named one of the greatest 100 innovations of the year by Popular Science. They were mentioned in President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address.
With all of this continued momentum and success, the Brusaws are currently working on their prototypes, in the hopes of installing their first public installation later this year.
But this momentum wasn’t always there. Like most innovators, the Brusaws began their journey with doubt, apprehension, and uncertainty.
Julie and Scott Brusaw have known each other for nearly all of their lives (they met as toddlers). They eventually married and shared similar career aspirations and dreams.
During what was likely just a passing conversation between husband and wife, Julie asked why roads couldn’t be built out of solar panels. Scott pondered this, and (as is typical with any new concept introduced) began to poke holes in it. Namely, he was concerned with how fragile solar panels were. He moved on from that idea.
Or at least, he tried to.
But the notion kept haunting him. He and Julie both knew, if it could be done, it would change the world forever. So it became a question of how can it be done, rather than if it could be done.
Using their instinctual curiosity blended with a foundation in engineering, the Brusaws set out on not just dreaming up a concept, but ensuring that their idea could become a reality. Nearly 10 years into the making, and not only have they garnered support from donors worldwide, but they’ve taken steps closer to proving that solar power roadways aren’t the stuff of science fiction. They’re the stuff of present day.
The solar powered roadway is so much more than a solar panel in place of asphalt, and the benefits – if realized – are astounding.
If the 28,000 square miles of paved surface area in the US were covered with solar panels with just 15% efficiency (which is far less that what is capable), we would produce 3x the power that the country needs to run itself. What this means is we could enjoy total energy independence, because of our roads.
But that independence comes at a price. Redesigning the country’s road systems (and parking lots) would be an enormous investment for both governments and businesses. However, as much of an investment it is at the start, these solar powered roads can become unique revenue producing assets over time. The belief is that the solar power generated by these panels would more than pay for any upfront costs over time.
The Brusaws’ next big test is to bring their innovation into the public spotlight, and demonstrate how their solar powered roadways hold up under the abuse of traffic, weather and more. Time will tell if this is, in fact, an innovation that will reshape the globe.