What if, instead of asphalt, our nation's roads were covered in solar panels designed to power our homes and businesses? It's a crazy idea, but evidently it's one a lot of people like. A proposal by one company has crowdfunded $1.38 million on Indiegogo over the past few weeks.
The plan by Solar Roadways has been trending in the news and on social media over the past few days, and this EXTREEEEEME promotional video has had more than 5 million videos on YouTube. Recently they have surpassed their initial $1 million crowdfunding goal.
The project is the brainchild of Scott and Julie Brusaw of Idaho. Their goal is to replace the nation's asphalt with solar panels, which they say could produce over three times the electricity that we currently use in the U.S. The plan also allows for smarter roads than we currently have, using heat to melt snow or LED lighting to warn drivers of hazards.
It's won several awards, as well as two phases of funding from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration for research and development. The Brusaws also say they have a prototype parking lot that can withstand the weight of a 250,000-pound truck.
The solar road panels are divided into three layers: a translucent top layer that provides traction, LED lighting and heating; a middle layer containing electronics to collect sunlight; and a bottom layer that distributes power.
It's unquestionably a very clever idea. But while some outlets have described their plan as the ultimate solution for America's energy and safety needs — "All the Brusaws need is a little cash and we can kiss economic woes, pollution and a whole lot of car accidents goodbye forever," Elite Daily wrote — it's hardly that simple.
It's very difficult to see how it could ever be implemented on our nation's roadways. Cost of construction and maintenance would be extremely high, as much as $56 trillion (!!!) according to one estimate. In addition, the Brusaws haven't been exactly clear on what they'll do with the money they've raised. From The Verge:
The couple says they have some customers lined up as soon as the product is finished, but decline to name them or specify the strength of their commitment. They also mention the possibility of other revenue sources besides selling electricity, such as advertising on the roads' LED displays or charging people to refuel their electric cars, but the list sounds more like brainstorming than a business plan.
Who knows, the Brusaws might be onto something, even if the ultimate form it takes is less ambitious than replacing all of America's asphalt with solar panels.
Photo credit Solar Roadways