Solar Roadways – Yes? No? Maybe So?


Solar Roadways – A powerful aspiration

Lets start with something smaller

Julie and Scott Brusaw standing on a Solar Powered Parking Lot

Julie and Scott Brusaw standing on a Solar Powered Parking Lot

Solar Roadways Inc is a startup created by Scott and Julie Brusaw to develop solar power panels that can be used for covering the vast amount of roadways that make up the infrastructure of the country. The Brusaws think the panels could do even more. Using LED lights, the panels could display the road markers, speed limits and potentially indicate obstruction ahead. The panels could be used to melt snow and ice, and could even power electric cars that are parked in solar parking lots.

And why not?  There are over 50,000 miles along the American roadways.  Covering that would generate a lot of electricity.  It seems like a great idea- and the extra benefits of providing the lights, heat, and communication seem like an added benefit. And like the viral video states – Solar Freaking Roadways!

But if you take a step back and think about it, why roadways? The Brusaws admit that the panels would be expensive, and the cost of maintaining or improving the infrastructure in America is already very high.  If cities and states find the cost of the current maintenance a challenge what would this new infrastructure look like?

So lets think about it in a different way.  Solar rooftops along the industrial sections of major cities – or any large structure really.  The cost of installing solar panels on buildings has gotten to a place where it can be economically feasible – and the benefits of selling back electricity to the power grid can help alleviate the cost.  Taking the power question off of the government owned roadways and into the public business sector would make more sense.

Wal-mart is already installing mechanisms to harness solar and wind power in some of their markets.  Although most of the efforts for Wal-mart’s green energy comes from international efforts, in the US Wal-mart has installed 250 solar energy systems – each of them provide 15% to 30% of a stores electricity needs. That’s not bad considering the cost to run electricity to the stores.

Phoenix Industrial Area

Phoenix Industrial Area

So what if a majority of businesses began to install solar panels on their rooftops.  This picture is of the industrial area of the Phoenix metropolitan area near the airport.  You can see that there seems to be more rooftop area than surface streets.  Being in Phoenix where there are 360+ days of sunshine, that would be an enormous amount of power – and being on rooftops there wouldn’t be much shade.  Parking lots in phoenix are largely covered which would negate the benefit of a solar powered parking lot.

Solar power roadways – the Brusaws have done a great job of generating the buzz for the good that thier project could do – but it might be better to start small and then expand.  Lets start with Solar panels that wouldn’t need constant upgrades, maintenance, and repair.  I mean, let’s face it, I am not going to go drive over my computer any time soon.  And, what would happen if the lights on these fabulous panels went out causing the drivers to not have the guidance they need. The concept of Solar Roadways is great – and if you watch the video, you will finish it and think Heck yeah! lets do it, but the reality is that the grand vision should be scaled down to something that is attainable short term and then expanded upon.

Good luck to the Brusaw’s though.  Power on!  Solar Freaking Roadways!

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