Would you feel safe driving on electric glass? A startup called Solar Roadways is betting on it. Armed with $100,000 from the U.S Department of Transportation, the company set off on a quest to produce the Solar Road Panel, an energy-generating device made from solar cells and glass that is intended to replace asphalt on roads. And now, just over 6 months after getting the DOT cash, Solar Roadways has a fancy prototype to show off.
Each Solar Road Panel features a weatherproof, translucent road surface layer, an electronics layer containing LEDs and solar cells, and a base plate layer that distributes power to homes and businesses connected to the roadway. In addition to generating power, the road panels have one big advantage over traditional asphalt: they are self-heating, which means snow and ice don’t accumulate on top of the road.
The company has some big plans:
The idea is to replace all current petroleum-based asphalt roads, parking lots, and driveways with Solar Road Panels™ that collect and store solar energy to be used by our homes and businesses. This renewable energy replaces the need for the current fossil fuels used for the generation of electricity. This, in turn, cuts greenhouse gases literally in half.
Overly ambitious? Probably. Convincing the government to rip up every single asphalt road in the country is most likely impossible–not to mention wasteful. But at the very least, Solar Road Panels could be useful in areas prone to snow and ice build-up. And if the U.S. government won’t bite, maybe Solar Roadways could look elsewhere.