The Department of Energy just gave $100,000 to upstart company Solar Roadways, to develop 12-by-12-foot solar panels, dubbed “Solar Roads,” that can be embedded into roads, pumping power into the grid. The panels may also feature LED road warnings and built-in heating elements that could prevent roads from freezing.
Each Solar Road panel can develop around 7.6 kwh of power each day, and each costs around $7,000. If widely adopted, they could realistically wean the US off fossil fuels: a mile-long stretch of four-lane highway could take 500 homes off the grid. If the entire US Interstate system made use of the panels, energy would no longer be a concern for the country.
In addition, every Solar Road panel has its own microprocessor and energy management system, so if one gives out, the rest are not borked. Materials-wise, the top layer is described as translucent and high-strength. Inhabitat says it’s glass, which seems odd, especially since Solar Roadways claims the surface provides excellent traction. The base layer under the solar panel routes the power, as well as data utilities (TV, phone, Internet) to homes and power companies.
Still, this is a ways away from actual implementation, seeing as a prototype has yet to be built. But we can be excited, right?