There are 2 million miles of paved roads in the United States. Each of those miles has to be resurfaced periodically and the material generally used to pave roads is asphalt which is a petroleum product. So not only do you need to put gas in your family car, but the road you drive on also contributes to this country’s thirst for fossil fuels. But, what if that same road could instead be part of the production of green energy using solar panels. That wonderfully crazy idea is the brainchild of Scott Brusaw who is the CEO of Solar Roadways.
According to Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch,
Brusaw wants to create solar panels strong enough to support the weight of cars and trucks driving at 80 miles per hour. There is so much road surface in America, that the collected energy could replace other forms of fossil fuel energy, even with really inefficient solar panels. Even better, since roads go to each home and business, the roads themselves would not only collect the energy, but distribute it. The energy wouldn’t power cars themselves, except maybe electric vehicles juicing up at roadside charging stations. LEDs could be built into the roadways and used as signs.
Solar Roadways ran the numbers and estimates that a solar panel road segment might be able to pay for itself in about 22 years depending on what assumptions you use for efficiency and hours of sunlight. Is this an idea that could take roads from part of the problem to part of the solution? Perhaps the Joni Mitchell song will have to be changed to “they paved paradise and put up a mechanism for creating green energy”. That might be lyrically less catchy but more intriguing as we struggle with global warming and energy independence.