Winter is here folks, and there is no denying it after the storm that just hit us. It seems like the colder weather moves in earlier and earlier every year, but it might be that I’m just feeling it more as I get older and older every year. How about that?
With the roads being snow packed and icy, it’s always a joy to get in the car and head out to places near and far. . . Not. Despite the wonderful Portland public transportation system, most of us cling to our cars like a child to a pacifier. With my recent driveway resurfacing, I thought the long, narrow entrance to my little cabin would be easier to navigate once the snow fell. In fact, it is, but it’s still a pain in the backside having to plow and shovel.
That said, I want to share with you the amazing innovation of solar roadways. New to the public eye back in early 2013, they’ve started to catch on in a big way. If you haven’t heard of them, you are in for a wonderful eye opener when it comes to winter driving.
A couple from Sandpoint, Idaho, Julie and Scott Brusaw invented a way to harness the sun’s solar rays to be used on our roadways. The idea was Julie’s brainstorm, but it was Scott’s electrical engineering background that started the project in motion.
Here’s how it works:
Individual panels are made up of specifically tempered glass that can withstand the weight of constant and heavy traffic. The hexagonal panels are designed to connect and are laid out like pieces in a big puzzle. Each panel is independent, but with an intelligence that communicates with other panels around it. Within each 4.39 square ft. glass panel there are solar collectors that in turn create light and heat using 12, 24, 36 and 48 watts.
When first invented they did not light up, but soon LED lights were installed, which act as alerts or can easily be changed to reconfigure traffic flow, or parking designations. The versatility challenges the imagination. For example, a warning can be displayed in lights from within a panel, well ahead of time, to on-coming traffic if something unusual enters the road – like a kid on a bike, or a deer, or a piece of equipment falls off a truck ahead.
Presently Solar Roadways are still in their infancy with applications being tested in parking lots and driveways. However, the US Department of Transportation sees the potential and awarded Solar Roadways a Phase I Small Business Innovative Research contract. Considering the crumbling infrastructure and cost of road repair within the nation, this option could save millions of dollars.
Saving money is not a concept easily grasped when it comes to bleeding millions every year in efforts to maintain growing energy concerns. One of the major advantages of solar panels is that they can potentially become the country’s smart grid, providing energy to homes and businesses along their path.
Imagine replacing coal, natural gas, and nuclear power with clean renewable, sustainable energy? It doesn’t come without its challenges, but not challenges that can’t be overcome. What do you think of a nation of solar roadways? Have a look at our next post and leave a comment below to get involved with the conversation.