Based out of northern Idaho, Solar Roadways was awarded a $750,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration earlier this year to design and build a solar parking lot, the next phase of development for the green technology. During phase one of the project, the founders of Solar Roadways used an initial grant of $100,000 from the federal government to construct a 12 by 12 foot prototype of the technology. The first prototype is constructed out of LED lights, solar panels and a variety of heating elements. All of these parts are encased in a a type of glass that’s durable, doesn’t reflect a glare from the sun or headlights and has the same traction as asphalt.
Generating 7.6 kilowatt hours of electricity per day, the power can be used to melt snow and ice in case of inclement weather. This would also allow homeowners that install a solar driveway to avoid shoveling snow for the rest of their lives. It can also be tied into a smart grid to help power businesses, homes and even charging stations for electric vehicles. The LED lights have a variety of uses including warning a driver when approaching an oncoming car as well as about detours, accidents or construction ahead. People managing the roads can even write messages for people to read with the microprocessor boards built into the panels. There’s also opportunity for airports to use the LED lights for landing lights as well as keeping the runway free of slippery ice.
Company founders Scott and Julie Brusaw are estimating that building and installing the panels will cost three times what asphalt costs, but slowly pay for itself over time if the electricity is put to good use. The couple is hoping that phase two of the project will yield positive results. They plan to test the parking lot in a variety of conditions and hopefully roll out the product to the public for installation on driveways, patios and sidewalks.