You could one day be driving on energy-generating smart streets

Imagine a road that gets power from the sun, can melt snow and ice and generates energy

Imagine roadways that generate three times the nation's power needs, melt snow in the winter and have embedded LED lighting that can offer driver alerts and be reconfigured depending on road conditions.

That's the technology that Scott and Julie Brusaw, co-founders of Solar Roadways, are currently testing. In fact, the first prototype for their Solar Roadways project has already received federal funding.

The Sagle, Idaho-based Solar Roadways company is now running a crowdsourcing campaign on to raise more money to ramp up production of their hexagonal-shaped Solar Road Panel technology.

The hexagon panels are made up of four layers. There's a half-inch thick glass surface, followed by a layer of LED lights, an electronic support structure (circuit board) and a base layer made of recyclable materials.

Solar Roadways
The hexagon-shaped Solar Road Panels connect to make a grid (Image: Solar Roadways).

"We can produce three times more power than we use as a nation. That will eliminate the need for coal-fired power plants," Scott Brusaw said.

The polygon panels, which snap together to form circuits, can withstand up to 250,000 pounds of pressure, according to Brusaw. And while glass doesn't sound like the best material for a road, Bursaw said one of the technical specs for the panels is that it be textured to provide at least the traction offered by asphalt roads in the rain.

"We hesitate to even call it glass, as it is far from a traditional window pane. But glass is what it is, so glass is what we must call it," he said. "We sent samples of textured glass to a university civil engineering lab for traction testing... and ended up with a texture that can stop a vehicle going 80 mph in the required distance."

Solar Roadways
The Solar Roadways would have embedded LED lighting capable of creating numerous traffic patterns and signage (Image: Solar Roadways).

The panels would not only collect energy from the sun, they would be part of a "smart" system that could even talk to cloud-connected vehicles. For example, pressure sensitive monitors could detect if a moose has entered the roadway ahead and warn oncoming traffic.

Five years ago, the Federal Highway Administration funded the couple's first-ever Solar Road Panel prototype. In their second prototype of the Solar Roadway panels, the Brusaws created a beta parking lot. They foresee a time when parking lots and even athletic courts could be use the embedded LED lights to create a myriad of configurations. For example, a basketball court could be changed in an instant into a stick-ball hockey court.

Solar Roadways
The panels are made up of four layers (Image: Solar Roadways).
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