An extremely ambitious idea to replace our nation’s roads with solar panels is seeing real support on crowdfunding site Indiegogo.
The project, simply titled Solar Roadways, was started by Idaho couple Julie and Scott Brusaw. As of Monday afternoon, the husband-and-wife team had passed their $1 million goal with no signs of stopping.
Backers are buying into this modular pavement system. Each hexagonal block contains solar panels, microprocessors and LEDs to essentially create a smart road that could provide power and much more. (Via Solar Roadways)
“Every panel has a series of LED lights on the circuit board that can be programmed to lane-scape designs, warning signs, parking lot configurations, whatever.” (Via Solar Roadways)
The blocks are encased in a tough, tempered glass that’s reportedly gone through traction, load and impact resistance testing. (Via Solar Roadways)
With their more than $1 million in Indiegogo support, the Brusaws say they’re ready to move from the prototype parking lot they’ve created to actual manufacturing.
Not for the entire U.S., of course. Actually, their Indiegogo page is vague on what a repaving project would cost, saying only that the energy produced would pay for the roads over time. (Via Solar Roadways)
A writer for Vox took the company’s 2010 estimate, which said a 12’ by 12’ glass panel would cost $10,000. “At this rate, covering all of our roads would cost $56 trillion — nearly 20 times the annual federal budget.”
Cost isn’t the only concern. The Verge questions the plan's practicality. “It’s hard to imagine a city ripping up asphalt and installing a largely unproven technology when it could achieve the same level of power generation by planting panels along the road.”
Or as a writer for Equities.com says, there are “millions and millions of acres of unused roof space” we could install panels on today. He says those panels would not only be cheaper but would also be able to capture more sunlight by moving with the sun throughout the day
Then again, The Washington Post reports rooftop energy harvesting, while more practical, has its share of challenges, too, because it “rests largely on consumers and businesses to adopt solar.”
But according to the paper, that's also where the Brusaw’s project will start. They reportedly have a few private driveway projects lined up. (Via Solar Roadways)
As for funding a larger road replacement plan, the couple has suggested a few ideas outside of selling electricity to raise money, including putting ads on the roads' LED displays. But that might also raise safely concerns.