Sometimes a great idea is so close you're literally standing on it.
At least that's been the case for Scott and Julie Brusaw, an Idaho couple that founded Solar Roadways a few years ago. They have what can only be called a grand vision — banishing asphalt roadways once and forever and paving the streets of the world with intelligent solar panels. Every driveway, parking lot, and all road systems — interstate highways, state routes, main street U.S.A., even dirt country roads — are candidates. And let's not forget amusement parks, raceways, bike paths and parking garage rooftops.
These smart glass roads will be made of interconnected Solar Road Panels. The panels will collect enough energy to power our homes and businesses, not to mention running the roads lighting and display capabilities and, for northern climates, the heating elements that keep the roads clear no matter what the weather.
This is not just a mad gleam in the eye of a couple of enterprising would-be entrepreneurs from Idaho. With a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) grant, Solar Roadways built its first prototype in 2009. Recently it completed a Phase I SBIR (Small Business Innovative Research) contract and this July was awarded a follow-up $750,000 Phase II contract by the FHWA.
The solar panels consist of three layers. The road surface layer is roughened to provide lots of traction — we don't want 18-wheelers, SUVs and campers whirling around like demented ice skaters. It's translucent and tough enough to handle heavy loads in the worst weather and provide protection to the next layer — the electronic layer.
This second layer contains a microprocessor board, which allows the panel to sense surface loads and control the heating elements.
The third, base plate layer takes the energy collected by the electronics layer and distributes it to all the homes and businesses connected to the Solar Roadway.
These folks think big. This from their website: "Imagine a world-wide system where the 'lit half of the world' is always powering the 'dark' half of the world! Everyone has power. No more power shortages, no more roaming power outages, no more need to burn coal (50 percent of all greenhouse gases). Less need for fossil fuels and less dependency upon foreign oil. Much less pollution. How about this for a long term advantage: an electric road allows all-electric vehicles to recharge anywhere: rest stops, parking lots, etc. They would then have the same range as a gasoline-powered vehicle. Internal combustion engines would become obsolete. Our dependency on oil would come to an abrupt end."
Scott Brusaw figures the money from the Phase II SBIR grant should just about cover the cost of creating a prototype parking lot. The project will take two years or so given the speed bumps that they are bound to encounter.
No matter. Today a parking lot. Tomorrow the world.
You can watch the company's YERT video below and check out Scott Brusaw's TED talk here.
Posted by John Kirkley - August 10, 2011 @ 2:45 PM, Pacific Daylight Time
John Kirkley, Editor, Digital Manufacturing Report
John Kirkley has been active in the computer, networking and telecommunications industries for more than 45 years. He has held positions in magazine editing, corporate communications, public relations and advertising. Most recently he has been concentrating his efforts on the fields of digital manufacturing, modeling and simulation, in addition to staying current on the high performance and cloud computing industries.
Prior to joining Tabor Communications Inc. as the editor of the Digital Manufacturing Report, Kirkley was president of Kirkley Communications, a marketing communications firm providing high tech writing, editing and podcast services.
He was the editor of Datamation magazine, one of the most successful and respected computer industry publications. In addition to managing a large publication staff, Kirkley is known for his work with an Advisory Board consisting of a dozen of the top people in the computer industry.
Kirkley also founded Computer magazine, the journal of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Computer Society, acting as its editor and publisher, and managing the Society's publications office. Today, Computer remains the Computer Society's flagship publication. Kirkley has also been honored as one of the Society's Golden Core Members.
In addition to his conference and writing activities, Kirkley acted as a senior consultant to Manning, Selvage and Lee, one of the world's top ten public relations firms.
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