The Future of Roads, in Solar Panels

I recently received an email from Tim Casey at Jockimo telling me about a fascinating collaboration for his company: Solar Roadways. I think the developers explain it best in their now viral YouTube video, as “technology that replaces all roadways, parking lots, sidewalks, driveways, tarmacs, bike paths, and outdoor recreation surfaces with solar panels. And not just lifeless, boring solar panels. Smart, micro-processing, interlocking, hexagonal, solar units.”

And, they are topped with glass. Jockimo, in conjunction with Solar Roadways, has developed a cast textured glass surface that can handle heavy traffic while allowing sunlight to pass through to solar cells beneath.

“It’s estimated that if all roads in America were converted to Solar Roadways, the country would generate three times the electricity we currently use,” according to developers.

This technology is still in its infancy. (The company is five days away from completing an already successful crowd sourcing campaign to bring Solar Roadways beyond the prototype stage.) But imagine the impact of just converting even just a fraction of our roadways (big box parking lots, perhaps?) into electricity-generating surfaces.

Perhaps the most innovative aspects of Solar Roadways are the “extras.” The panels stay slightly above freezing, melting any snow and ice. LED lights can easily be incorporated into the panels, allowing for any necessary surface signage (lane markings, warning signs, parking lot configurations, etc.). The surfaces are pressure sensitive, warning drivers of debris or even animals in the road ahead. And the roadways contain two corridors: one is a cable corridor, to replace the necessity of overhead power and telephone lines; the other is a water runoff corridor.

Could the future of our roads lie in solar panels?

Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at kdevlin@glass.org.

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