Words like visionary and revolutionary are thrown around quite often on media outlets, usually with very little care. And yet, sometimes we come across ideas that truly make us stop and marvel at the world of possibilities that they could introduce. This Indiegogo campaign has made just that: meet Solar Roadways, a project that may solve most of our energy and pollution issues in one go.
The Brusaws, an American couple of engineers, had a simple idea a few years ago. In order to solve our dependency on traditional fossil fuels, we could use our immense amount of asphalted surface to generate clean energy by covering it with – you guessed it – solar panels. That means all roads, parking lots, sport fields and even city squares could be turned into solar farms, without having to spoil the countryside. If that were to happen in the US, according to the engineers, the amount of energy generated would be three times above the country’s current energy demand.
The benefits of this idea go beyond the generating of clean energy and the possibility to give up fossil fuels completely. Since the solar panels would be wirelessly-connected octagonal modules, they would be able to communicate malfunctions immediately, and replacement would be easy and fast. Plus, since the modules are made of tempered glass instead of asphalt, they would be a perfect alternative to the petroleum-based material, and even solve the problem of frozen driveways thanks to a heating system that instantly melts snow and ice. The cables running alongside the roadways would also provide wifi, mobile connection, and electric charging stations, wherever you are headed. Moreover, the modules incorporate LED lights that can be programmed to show any line, sign, writing, or combination of colors. That means there would be no need for road maintenance, and there would be real-time updates on the road conditions, and even the presence of animals or rocks on the way. Otherwise you could use the LEDs to have a multicolored disco floor for your outdoor party. Last but not least, building and managing solar roadways would create thousands of jobs all over the country.
This incredible idea has quickly gained the public’s interest: the Indiegogo campaign received more donations than the set goal, and it is still ongoing thanks to the site’s InDemand project. The US bureau of transportation has taken the couple under its wing, commissioning the building of a prototype parking lot. The prototype is now completed and undergoing a series of resistance tests, which seem to be going splendidly according to the official website. Of course, reshaping a whole country’s road system is no easy task and it will need time. The plan is to start small, with parking lots and driveways, which would provide enough electricity to power small businesses. They could also count on the charging stations for electric cars to attract more customers to the shops. The next steps would be residential streets, which are less traveled by heavy trucks and speeding cars, followed by highways once the technology is proven to work in tougher conditions. Hopefully, this is what the future will look like.