June 16, 2014
Solar freakin’ roadways, man: that’s what people are already saying about Scott and Julie Brusaw’s company, Solar Roadways. You see, they’re the perfect amount of entrepreneur mixed with big dreamer, and they’ve invented a way to power homes, offices, and schools by turning our roads into energy harvesting highways.
Scott, an electrical engineer (MSEE) with over 20 years of experience under his belt, thought that we as humans could make our roads, parking lots, and even bike paths more efficient by building them out of solar panels. He’s built a modular paving system of solar panels that can withstand the heaviest of trucks up to 250,000 pounds.
The problem, as it stands now, is that these hexagonal solar panels aren’t already built into our roads, and scaling them for mass production and installation will take copious amounts of time and money. Fortunately for the Brusaw team, crowdfunding can help.
Their Indiegogo campaign is making landmark headlines as Indiegogo’s most popular campaign to date, and it’s reaching the top ranks of highest dollar amount raised on a crowdfunding platform. Their initial goal was $1 million which they hit, and then they got a campaign extension.
To date, with 5 days remaining on the clock, Solar Roadways has surpassed $2 million in total funding. Perhaps that’s due to the fact that they’ve received two additional phases of funding from the US Federal Highway Administration, or that they were hand selected by Google as one of the company’s Moonshots.
Any way you spin it, they’re building towards a massive disruption of some major markets. The funding that the Brusaw crew is raising will be funneled directly into hiring engineers and scaling up production: as it stands all of their prototype models have been constructed by hand.
The beauty of the panel is that it can be installed on highways, side roads, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, bike paths, and even playgrounds. They generate electricity and the Solar Roadways team has even postulated that a nationwide system could produce more clean, renewable energy than an entire country uses as a whole.
And aside from the obvious electricity generation, the solar panels have a host of other features like heating elements to melt snow and ice, LEDs that make road lines and signage, and an attached cable corridor to provide a home for power and data cables. And according to Brusaw, the tempered glass is more chip-resistant than concrete and non-slippery: the texture has actually been reported to tear the rubber off of a pendulum device that civil engineers use to test road friction.
“Our technology works. Now it's time to gear up for manufacturing,” says the Brusaw team.
My personal favorite part about this project is that it all comes from mountains of recycled glass; it's renewable from beginning to end.
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