What if the 164,000 miles of paved highways in the US are the road to a sustainable green energy future?

Scott and Julie Brusaw, the bold leaders of Solar Roadways, an Idaho-based solar tech company, have a bold idea—turn mundane, inert asphalt or concrete highways into energy-generating solar power plants.

How? Install a solar panel overlay onto existing roadways. From prototype in 2010 to the first phase of testing, a 12 x 20 foot stretch of a sidewalk leading to the Route 66 welcome center in Conway, Missouri, Solar Roadways is on the path to constructing the roadways of tomorrow. In fact, this project is part of Missouri’s Road to Tomorrow Initiative.

Energy from the panels will be used to power the welcome center. Future phases of the project include adding panels to the parking lot and the entrance and exit lanes. Each phase will test the durability and functionality of the panels.

These specially designed solar panels are made of textured tempered glass to simulate asphalt and can support the weight of a semi-truck. Additional features in the smart panels include LED lights to make the road lines and heating elements to keep roads snow-free.

Besides providing clean energy, using solar roadways has the added benefit of using existing infrastructure, avoiding the “not in my backyard problem” associated with large-scale power generation projects.  And unlike existing roads that serve as revenue drains, solar roadways can pay for themselves as they generate megawatts of clean energy to power homes and businesses.

According to Brusaw, “We’ve got a little over 28,000 square miles of paved surfaces in the lower 48 states.  If we covered all those surfaces, we’d produce three times more energy than we use.” This surplus production would be a boon for the rest of the world.

As more countries modernize, energy demands are expected to increase 36% by 2040. Bold action is required if we are to meet the world’s growing need for energy while at the same time reducing emissions to delay global warming. Moving to large-scale green energy generators will be necessary to provide the power needed to raise worldwide standards of living.  Solar roads may prove to be a viable option for fueling this global prosperity.

Meanwhile, keep your eye out for a new road sign: Coming Soon: Roads That Produce Solar Energy.

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