The Federal Highway Administration has awarded $750,000 to a Northwest electrical engineer who thinks he can turn highways into solar power plants.
Where we see asphalt, Scott Brusaw sees the potential for solar power. The owner of Solar Roadways in Sagle, north Idaho, is developing what he calls “intelligent pavement.”
Brusaw envisions a solar panel-plated roadway could be lit up at night and heated to melt ice, as well as feed electricity back into the grid.
Of course, first there was the obvious question: Can you drive on a solar panel?
“We started thinking along the lines of like a black box on an airplane,” Brusaw explains. “We don’t have to be that strong, but we started talking: if we could make a structurally engineered case to protect it, something that would withstand the worst abuse from an 18-wheeler, then we can put solar cells inside.”
Brusaw says he’s been working with universities and private companies to develop a glass casing that fits the bill. He thinks the solar highway could also provide quick access to power for electric vehicle drivers who need a re-charge.
Brusaw isn’t ready to start laying down a solar roadway yet, though. The federal money will fund a prototype that’s a bit more modest: a solar parking lot.
(This was first reported for the Northwest News Network.)