The Crazy Genius Behind Solar Roadways

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Here’s an idea crazy enough that it just might work: Pave the streets with solar-powered panels that have their own built-in heat and LED lights. That’s what Scott and Julie Brusaw hope to accomplish with their ongoing Solar Roadways project, which they just funded through a hugely popular crowdfunding campaign.

The husband-and-wife team has spent the better part of the last decade developing solar-powered modular panels that could be installed in roadways and parking lots, and would be able to collect power from the sun. Those panels could also keep streets clear of snow and ice, while illuminating them with LEDs.

Rather than paving streets and driveways with asphalt, the Solar Roadways panels would theoretically be able to decrease our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels by generating massive amounts of clean energy. Panels are made from ruggedized glass and connect to one another through a mesh network, so that even if one panel fails the system will notify repair crews that it needs to be replaced.

The whole thing is a pretty outlandish idea, and one we first wrote about back in 2010. Now, after rolling out some prototype panels in a driveway, and putting together a couple of videos to show how they work, the Solar Roadways team seems to have reached a point where it can actually start productizing and deploying its panels.

They will be helped by more than $1 million that they raised in a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. (The campaign goes on for another week, for those who’d like to contribute.)

After building out and testing its Phase II prototype thanks to funding from the Federal Highway Administration, the company is hoping to deploy the panels in the wild.

While frankly it’s a pretty cool idea, the Solar Roadways team has a lot of work ahead of it if it hopes to get its panels installed in real-world situations. And given the amount of highway and road infrastructure in the U.S., it would no doubt be crazy expensive to deploy in any massive scale. But the whole thing is crazy and cool enough that it just might work.