That Amazing ‘Solar Roadways’ Project Has a Working Prototype


This story first appeared on the CityLab website and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Four years ago, Scott and Julie Brusaw announced their provocative concept of “Solar Roadways,”a system of modular solar panels that could be paved directly onto roads, parking lots, driveways, bike paths, “literally any surface under the sun.” Since then, the Brusaws have received two rounds of funding from the Federal Highway Administration as well as a private grant to develop their project.

They now have a working prototype featuring hexagonal panels that cover a 12-by-36-foot parking lot. In addition to the potential to power nearby homes, businesses, and electric vehicles, the panels also have heating elements for convenient snow and ice removal, as well as LEDs that can make road signage. According to the Brusaws’ calculations, Solar Roadways, if installed nationwide, could generate over three times the electricity currently used in the United States.

solar roadways

Concept rendering by Sam Cornett
solar roadways

Concept rendering by Sam Cornett and Craig Fine

Before you ask—the panels have indeed been tested for traction, load testing, and impact resistance. It’s supposed to withstand a 250,000-pound load, typical of the heaviest trucks. For starters, here’s footage of a tractor driving over the prototype.

In their current Indiegogo campaign, the Brusaws are trying to raise $1 million to help move Solar Roadways into production and start installing additional projects. With the campaign only 8 percent funded so far, their plan faces a long road ahead.

Here’s the full demo.

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In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

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