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Roads of the Future: Solar Highways Becoming a Reality

Sep 23, 2016 04:27 AM EDT
Route 66
A highway rest stop in Missouri will be covered with energy-producing solar panels, and it will be the first of many more solar road projects throughout the world.
(Photo : Randy Heinitz / Flickr)

Highways are now a new source of green energy.

A rest stop along Route 66 in Conway, Missouri will be the site of a new experiment that will create roads covered with solar panels and the starting line for many more solar road projects all over the world.

Solar Roadways, an Idaho-based startup run by husband-and-wife duo Scott and Julie Brusaw, is developing the solar panels to be installed on the sidewalk near the Route 66 rest stop. The solar panels are specially engineered to be walked and driven upon. The panels contain LED lights and are made of specifically formulated tempered glass that could support the weight of semi-trucks.

According to Curbed, the company received a $750,000 contract from the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct tests in 2011, and also raised over $2.2 million from an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

Solar Roadway's concept involves turning highways into green energy power plants. The solar panels on the roads will also heat up, which means people would no longer need to plow the roadways during winter. The panels also light up to replace street signs and warn drivers of road risks.

The pilot test in Missouri's Route 66 is part of the state's Road2Tomorrow initiative, which recognizes new and innovative technologies for the highways of the future. If the rest stop test is successful, the next step would be trying the solar panels in the rest stop parking lot and the entrance and exit ramps.

Solar Roadways is not the only solar road technology developers initiating pilot tests. The Netherlands' SolaRoad, led by a consortium of government agencies and engineering companies, has successfully pilot-tested their solar panels on a bike path in Krommenie. France's Wattway, a collaboration between road construction giant Colas and French national solar institute INES, is also conducting a series of small tests in different sites around the world.

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