While solar roadways may seem a thing of the future, they’re closer to being a real thing than you think. An Idaho company called Solar Roadways has developed solar-powered glass pavers and is testing their performance – the company has installed 150 square feet of hexagon-shaped solar panels in a downtown Idaho plaza that people can walk and bicycle on.
Because the panels have been showing positive feedback, the company will soon expand their presence along the famous Route 66. They’ve chosen a sidewalk near a rest stop in Conway, Missouri where they’ll lay more of their glass panels for further testing. If both areas do well, we could soon see Solar Roadways’ panels implemented along roadways.
Since concrete and asphalt occupy millions of square miles in the U.S., it could be awhile until solar roadways are being used in an area near you, but in an article by the AP, Solar Roadways founder Scott Brusaw says, “Our plan is to replace all the asphalt and concrete. If you cover it with solar panels, we can make three times our energy needs.”
The idea could help the U.S. reduce its carbon emissions (which the country vowed to do by one-third by 2030) – especially since the company is the only one receiving federal highway research money in pursuit of solar road panels. It also received three FHA grants (totaling $1.6 million) and funding from the state and a local economic development agency. In addition, 50,000 donors raised $2.2 million for the company through crowdsourcing.
You may be wondering how strong glass panels could really be – after all, if they’re installed on roadways, they’ll have to support the weight of cars, trucks, and even tractor trailers. So far, the panels have undergone several strength tests including dropping 1-pound steel balls on the half-inch-thick glass from a height of 8 feet (the same test that concrete undergoes) So far, the panels have held up just as well as concrete.
Right now the panels are approved for use in sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways, but it may not be long before they’re implemented on roadways.