Solar Roadways Inc. recently announced that the company will be upgrading their parking lot in Sandpoint, Idaho. Not newsworthy? According to company founder Scott Brusaw, this ain’t no ordinary upgrade.
“Your parking lot could power your building,” Brusaw said.
Solar Roadways Inc. has received a second grant from the Federal Highway Administration to research the company’s “intelligent pavement” concept, or the idea that solar panels can be incorporated into our parking lots, streets and highways.
The first contract was awarded in 2009, and enabled the company to build prototypes of the technology. The second award is a $750,000 two-year contract that will be used to showcase the technology by transforming the company’s parking lot into a solar power system.
The panels are divided into three layers. The road surface layer is constructed with textured, translucent, high-strength glass material, embedded with LEDs, and contains a heating element.
The middle layer consists of a microprocessor board, support circuitry and controls for the heating element. The electronics are intended to control lighting, communications and monitoring, and are the intelligence behind the technology.
The base layer is responsible for distributing the power to connected homes and businesses.
Solar Roadways will install 12-foot-square panels – each producing about 7.6 kilowatt hours of power – in the parking lot outside their electronics laboratory. Four panels are enough to provide all the electricity needed for an average home.
Because vehicle traffic in parking lots is slow-moving, Brusaw sees them as the best place to test the technology, and the best areas to begin implementation on a large scale. Driveways, patios and playgrounds are other prime surface for the solar paver panels.
“The ultimate goal is the nation’s highways,” Brusaw said.
Paving roads and highways with solar panels has been Brusaw’s dream since he began the project five years ago. Brusaw envisions replacing asphalt’s fossil fuel technology with roads and highways that provide electricity, light their own signs and markings, melt snow, clean themselves and even communicate with drivers and law enforcement.
When asked about the cost of installing such a system, Brusaw emphasized that the true cost can only be measured when taking into account that the roads are not only a new kind of surfacing, but something that could effectually replace the nation’s entire electrical grid.
The lower 48 states contain 28,000 miles of paved surfaces. If installed with solar paver panels, enough power would be generated to provide three times as much energy as the entire country consumes each year.
Brusaw’s work has garnered attention from Japan, Korea and Canada, as well as from the Federal Highway Commission. The company won an award from General Electric’s Ecomagination Challenge, which challenged individuals and companies to come up with the “next generation power grid.” The company hopes to attract investors in order to start commercial production.
“Everyone is interested, but wants to know how you’re going to do this,” Brusaw said.
The company's new parking lot may show them how.