Imagine a world where everyone benefits from solar energy. Imagine a clean planet. Imagine safer living. This are the ideas of the couple Scott (engineer) and Julie (psychotherapist) Brusaw when they started the “Solar Roadway Project.”
What is Solar Roadway?
Solar Roadways Incorporated is a startup company based in Sandpoint, Idaho. It was founded by the Brusaw couple, Scott (President and CEO) and Julie in 2006. The company’s vision is to replace asphalt surfaces with structurally-engineered solar panels.
As explained by the Brusaw’s, this technology is a fusion of a transparent driving surface with underlying solar cells, electronics and sensors to act as a solar array with programmable capability.
- 2009 EE Times Annual Creativity in Electronics (ACE) Awards “Best Enabler Award for Green Engineering” category finalist.
- 2010 EE Times Annual Creativity in Electronics (ACE) Awards “Most Promising Renewable Energy Award” category finalist.
- 2010 General Electric Ecoimagination Community Award of $50,000.
- 2013 World Technology Award finalist.
- 2014 Popular Science. One of 7 “Best of What’s New” Engineering category in the “100 Greatest Innovations of the Year-2014” article.
The Challenge with Solar Roadways
The idea of developing a “smart highway” exciting, unique, and promising. Not to mention the health and environmental benefits should it become fully implemented. However, just like other science projects, Solar Roadways have run into skepticism and hurdles.
Funds and resources top the main problems. A glimmer of hope surfaced in 2009. Brusaw’s efforts paid off when he earned a $100,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the Department of Transportation (DOT). The grant was to fund creating a solar parking lot. It was followed by another SBIR grant from the same department. A whopping $750,000 for Phase II and the creation of a solar parking lot.
SBIR’s grant money led to the creation of a 12-by-36-foot parking lot covered with hexagonal-shaped glass embedded with solar panels beneath. The prototype was a success.
In April 2014, the campaign continued to expand as the company used Indiegogo for crowdfunding. The campaign became on of Indiegogo’s most popular campaigns and raised $2.2 million dollars.
Are Solar Roadways Realistic?
The idea is novel. What a better world we would live in with easily lit roadways, less pollution from creating the roadways, etc. However, engineers, financial experts, and others criticize the project, claiming that it is financially impossible to scale fully Solar Roadways. The cost adds up.
- funding to produce all of the Solar Roadway hexagon pieces across the country or world
- money to rip up the old roadways
- business lost during downtime and detours from construction
- wages to implement the new Solar Roadways
It’s not that the Solar Roadways Project is a bust. It is likely that it will just need to evolve over decades and with innovations from additional entrepreneurs. In many respects, the Solar Roadways Project is a success already. Their innovation has already captured the imagination of other solar enthusiasts. Those planted seeds are sure to spawn solar transportation discoveries related to Solar Roadways, one day or another.
“Imagine driving from Seattle to Florida in an EV that is being charged with clean sunshine while driving on the highway. Imagine the jobs that will have
been created, how many families will have been supported while getting to that point.” – Julie Brusaw
For further details, visit www.solarroadways.com.