Solar roadways are the future

Will Berger, Staff Writer

There are very few news items that get me excited enough to elevate me from my chair and scream “YES!” Seriously, this news story got me so excited that I completely scrapped the article I was working on about the inherent lack of empathy in Princeton Freshman Tal Fortgang’s controversial Time article, “Why I’ll Never Apologize for My White Male Privilege,” and decided to take on an entirely new topic.

So what’s the big deal? Roads that convert sunlight to electricity. It’s a Indiegogo campaign started by engineering couple Scott and Julie Brushaw from Sagle, Idaho.

For those of you unfamiliar with Indiegogo it’s a crowdsourcing website that is as funny to say as some of its campaigns, including Jefferey Self Needs A New Tooth, a campaign to fix one man’s, Jefferey Self’s, chipped tooth. But this campaign is more important than Jefferey’s tooth, it’s about moving the “modular paving system of solar panels” into production.

These aren’t your average boring solar panels though, these solar panels are smart, really smart. They’re “micro-processing, interlocking, hexagonal solar units.”

These solar panels contain microprocessors that control pressure sensors, heating elements, and LED lights. When large debris have fallen on the roadway the lights in the panels can alert drivers of upcoming hazards, and when snow and ice is covering the surface of the road, the panels use the energy they collect to heat the surface and melt the snow.

The lights in the panels can display road lines, parking lot configurations, and hazard warnings. These panels do all of this and also generate electricity.

According to the Solar Roadways website, it is estimated that if all roads were converted to solar roadways, the country would generate 3 times the amount of energy as it currently uses, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 75%.

Best of all, this isn’t some crazy pipe dream, this technology exists. The Brushaws and a small group of engineers were awarded “two phases of funding from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration for research and development of a paving system that will pay for itself over its lifespan.”

What really excites me about implementing solar roadways is how attainable and how practical it is. While they may be a short-term investment, the payoff is huge.

Tar prices have been sky-rocketing over the last ten years, paving roads and filling potholes are expensive, and lack of energy usage is a serious concern for the future.

The beauty of the panels is that they are replaceable—if one brakes or malfunctions it can be removed separate from the rest of the road.

A widespread construction of these roads could create the most jobs the US has ever seen.

Economically, it makes sense and ideologically, it makes sense.

It may be hard to believe, but a visit to their website and Indiegogo page may convince you, blow your mind, and then convince you again.