The DoT plans to install Solar Roadway’s walkable and drivable solar panels on sidewalks at the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center in Conway, Missouri. The test is to see if the panels can stand up to being walked on by visitors at the center. The concept of Solar Roadway’s panels is to provide a triple benefit: light, heat, and extra energy.
Solar Roadway’s panels, manufactured in the form of interlocking hexagonal tiles, are made of tempered glass. Each tile has a solar cell, a heating element, and LED lighting. So think, first, about a sidewalk that captures solar power could light up at night, melt snow and ice, and hold or transfer excess energy. Then extend the idea to highways and city streets.
If the panels could capture enough solar power to just light and heat themselves, that could potentially be a significant cost savings in street and highway lighting and snow removal. But what if enough excess power could be captured for other purposes?
How about powering electric car charging stations? Wirelessly transferring electric power to properly equipped vehicles traveling on the roadway? And what if sunlight hitting the roads generated enough power to feed the electrical grid? Wonder where to put all the solar farms needed to power a nation? Could creating solar-power-generating roadways be the answer?
So is that all wild conjecture? Maybe not. Solar Roadways cites its own evaluation: “Using very conservative numbers, calculations indicate that if all driving and walking surfaces in the U.S. were converted to Solar Roadway panels, they could produce over three times the electricity used in the United States. In fact, just the ‘lower 48’ could almost produce enough electricity to supply the entire world. To see those calculations in more detail, click here.”
The state of Missouri could be on to a good thing. The solar-powered walkways at the Route 66 center are scheduled for installation by the end of the year. If you’re heading out for kicks on Route 66 or beyond, perhaps in the near future you can stop and walk a glowing, heated, and always-dry path showcasing technology that could power the country.
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