Inventor pushes solar panels for roads, highways

Hexagon-shaped panels can withstand the wear and tear that comes from inclement weather and vehicles, big and small, to generate electricity
Associated Press
Jul 12, 2014

The solar panels that Idaho inventor Scott Brusaw has built aren't meant for rooftops. They are meant for roads, driveways, parking lots, bike trails and, eventually, highways.

Brusaw, an electrical engineer, says the hexagon-shaped panels can withstand the wear and tear that comes from inclement weather and vehicles, big and small, to generate electricity.

"We need to rebuild our infrastructure," said Brusaw, the head of Solar Roadways, based in Sandpoint, Idaho, about 90 miles northeast of Spokane, Washington. His idea contains "something for everyone to like."

"Environmentalists like it," he said. "Climate change deniers like it because it creates jobs."

While the idea may sound outlandish to some, it has already garnered $850,000 in seed money from the federal government, raised more than $2 million on a crowd-funding website and received celebrity praise.

Solar Roadways is part of a larger movement that seeks to integrate renewable energy technology — including wind, geothermal and hydropower — seamlessly into society.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group based in Washington, D.C., described companies like Solar Roadways as "niche markets" in the booming alternative energy industry.

"They represent the type of creative innovation that addresses design and energy, while showcasing the diversity of solar applications," said Tom Kimbis, a vice president of the association.

Brusaw said that in addition to producing energy, the solar panels can melt away snow and ice, and display warning messages or traffic lines with LED lights.

There are skeptics, who wonder about the durability of the panels, which are covered by knobby, tempered glass, and how they would perform in severe weather or when covered with dirt.

"It seems like something reasonable and something that is going to be very expensive," said Lamar Evans of the National Renewable Energy Association in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Another problem would be how to store the electricity that could be generated, Evans said.

The Brusaws have produced no estimates of how much the solar panels would cost, so the financial realities of their vision remain an unknown.

To demonstrate the concept, the company has created a small parking lot at its headquarters, using 108 solar panels. Vehicles have been driven onto the space, without damaging the panels, he said.

"We'll start off small with driveways and walkways," he said.

His wife Julie came up with the idea after watching "An Inconvenient Truth," the global warming movie featuring former Vice President Al Gore, Brusaw said.

She remembered that Scott had long talked about the concept of electric roads.

The U.S. Federal Highway Administration gave the Brusaws $850,000 to develop Solar Roadways over the past few years, and build the prototype parking lot.

This year, they turned to the Indiegogo crowd-funding site to raise additional money and move to the next phase. Launched on Earth Day, the campaign got off to a discouraging start, Brusaw said.

Donations trickled in, but two factors helped spread the company's vision: a viral YouTube video and celebrity mentions in social media. The video has more than 14 million views.

The floodgates opened when actor George Takei of "Star Trek" fame and the TV show "MythBusters" mentioned the company. They received donations from more than 45,000 people in 50 countries.

The money will enable the company to hire staff and begin production of more panels, Brusaw said.

"Once we've perfected everything, our ultimate goal will be highways," he said.



Great article. Good luck!





The Bizness

Never understood why people would be anti solar.


Re: "raised more than $2 million on a crowd-funding website and received celebrity praise."

No problem with private funding. Let the free-market decide it's success or failure.


I agree w/The Bizness. When Solar Energy has a "spill", we call it a sunny day.

From the Grave

I like it!

Darwin's choice



Solyndra is a non-issue or should be. First off, it's back in business. Second, it was funded by a program initiated by George W. Bush, so I could never quite understand why Republicans labeled it as an Obama failure. Third, more than 90% of the green energy businesses that received funding through the program succeeded, a rate far higher than new businesses in other catagories.

My new goal in life: to provide the other half of the story that Fox conveniently omits.

Darwin's choice

You're a liar! Prove what you've stated, storyteller!

obama/still failing

coasterfan/still a liar


Re: "The Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group based in Washington, D.C.,"

Lobbyists seeking tax dollars through crony capitalism (fascism).

Is there any need to wonder why 6 of the 10 richest counties in the U.S. surround DC?


Re: "The U.S. Federal Highway Administration gave the Brusaws $850,000,"

What's with all the talk about the U.S. highway fund running out of money? Hmmm.

"USDOT: Cash running out for roads, bridges":

The Big Dog's back

That's because the Repubs have failed to act on our aging infrastructure. Their motto- leave it to the next generation.

Think about it, the teatards haven't had to pay for anything. The WWll generation built the roads and bridges, while these teatard moochers want to pass it along to the next generation.


Actually, there's plenty of money to rebuild and/or replace roads and bridges. It's just that the Democrats are spending all of it to buy votes from the greedy, the lazy, and the inexcusably ignorant.


Re: "leave it to the next generation."

Nah, the Dems are masters at generational theft with kleptocrat programs like Soc. Security, Medicare, et al.

The Big Dog's back

SS and Medicare? Who is not getting their SS check or their Medicare?


Re: "Who is not getting their SS check or their Medicare?"

You're blathering.


Breaking News!!! Republicans aren't on Social Security or Medicare. Who knew?


"Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected," Obama
It is normal for a libtard to blame others for what they themselves are guilty of. Face it your god is a failure, He had the money and squandered it paying back campaign donors.


Great points, Big Dog. Isn't ironic that they are always showing faux concern that we are leaving financial problems for the next generation, but aren't the least bit worried about providing safe water, air, food supply, roads and bridges - not to mention healthcare - for our children and grandchildren?

What is most interesting is that the states who receive the most government assistance are RED states.


The government needs to be involved in continuing promising research.
Most will fail but some will succeed. The $$$ benefits of success will absorb the failures for society but unfortunately we only like sure things. With that said attempt to use this on a section of highway not the whole interstate system and if this works we will benefit so greatly we'll never be able to measure all the benefits.


Re: "The government needs to be involved in continuing promising research."

The govt. has a LOUSY track record of picking industrial winners and losers.

Put your money where your mouth is and invest your own cash.

H*ll, I probably own shares in more alt-energy cos. indirectly through mutual funds than you; (VGENX) among others.


The government has always been in the energy industry. You can avoid history all you want but the Hoover Dam was not a private project and the mapping of our natural resource deposits involved a lot of government. History can be interpreted several ways but don't just change it.


Meh, I don't listen to backwards thinking people, such as Contango. Their strategy is to use carbon-based fuels until the last bit of coal is gone. They are lousy at predicting the future and even worse at preparing for it.


If you don't listen to him, how can you reply to what he said?


Hearing and listening are two different things!


Can he make an intelligent reply if he didn't listen? I know you might not listen but then your typical replies aren't intelligent, they tend to be one line drive byes.


Re: "I don't listen,"

Of course, your mind is like concrete: All mixed up and permanently set.

Free market, not your brand of fascism.


For those who continue to point out lobbyist remember oil, coal, natural gas and all other resources has them too. The lobbyists for LP gas keep their industry unregulated so many of us had no means of fighting them when they did not fulfill their contracts this winter and we ended with leftover gas and a large electric bill for alternate sources of heat.


Re: "LP gas keep their industry unregulated,"

Anyone who says that the petroleum and nat-gas industry is unregulated is blowing smoke.

The oil, coal and nat-gas industry supports tens of thousands of jobs and pays billions annually in taxes. It ain't no free lunch.