Solar Freakin' Roadways
The Street. It's a thoroughfare for pedestrians, cyclists, trams, buses and private vehicles. Footpath to footpath, the surfaces which make up the various zones of any street, road or freeway are generally made of concrete or bitumen. When a foothpath is not in use, or when a street doesn't have trams, buses or private vehicles running on it, the surface of our road network essentially sits there doing nothing, absorbing the sun's energy and contributing to the urban heat island effect.
Along comes a crafty couple, Julie & Scott Brusaw, from Sandpoint in the U.S. state of Idaho and their concept of Solar Roadways.
In essence their concept is about providing a practical solution to replace road, foothpath and realistically any existing paved surface with multi-layered units which include solar panels enabling on-site electricity generation, LED components allowing dynamic on-road/footpath signage as well as conduits to bury existing power cables.
In fact the concept has proceeded to the point where a successful backyard prototype has been completed and they're now looking to crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo to raise $1million USD to take the project to the next level: commercialisation.
Check out this seven minute video, "Solar Freakin' Roadways", from the Indiegogo page. There's also a lot more videos and info-graphics which explain the concept in greater detail linked from the Indiegogo page.
As the video suggests the most likely way Solar Roadways will hit the mainstream is through the use in private driveways or back garden paving. But of course, serious interest and capital from public authorities - such as VicRoads or VicTrack - could also go a long way as well.
Idaho clearly sees a lot of snow and the Brusaws have encapsulated heating elements into their design to keep the panels free of snow and ice. We don't really have a snow problem at sea level in Australia's cities, but in the depths of winter surfaces like footpaths and train station platforms can be subject to frost and ice. That would be a problem of the past if train station and tram super-stop platforms utilised panels such as these. By all accounts the panels would turn whole platforms in to the tactile surfaces we currently find at the platform edge on station platforms.
Imagine the ability to quickly alter any major arterial road tidal flow traffic lanes thanks to the dynamic road signage. Imagine having the ability to create clearways, on demand, without any street-side signage. No more overhead traffic information boards - it would all be on-road. No more snow and ice on alpine roads. The potential application of this surface technology is broad.
Oh and, most lip-lickingly delicious of all: it generates green power thus enabling the authority, individual or private sector stakeholder who applies it any of the various ways discussed above to generate a return on their investment.
Green capitalism. Winner.
Alastair has donated to the Indiegogo campaign.
Lead image credit: downtown Sandpoint, Idaho, from Solar Roadways' site.