The Solar Road Not Yet Taken

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Pave it with solar panels?

The internet has been buzzing with startup campaigns. Two made major headways in social media last week with million dollar drives. The first, which you certainly heard of, was LaVar Burton’s Kickstarter to bring back Reading Rainbow, the celebrated children’s program. The second, on IndieGoGo, is a radical rethink of our traffic infrastructure:  Solar Roadways

With a powerful vision, Solar Roadways aims to vastly improve the nation’s highways, use solar energy technology to power the country and provide LED lighting and computing to make driving safer. Idaho residents Julie and Scott Brusaw created this hexagonal snow melting wonder in their own backyard as you can see in the entertaining video in the upper right. The couple use innovative glass to be able to support the weight of a fully loaded big rig while letting sunlight reach the solar panels underneath. The Brusaws envision solar roadways to pave the nation’s roads, parking lots and bike paths. 

You can tell their plan is well thought out (they account for snow and storm water drainage amongst other road hazards). The cost of replacing asphalt with solar panels, however, is glossed over to the point where the critics start to chime. An early critic asks, “why not pave the streets with gold?” And the most skeptical call it “silly” and compare the costs to the scale of World War II and as practical as Free Beer Fridays.

Still, as Treehugger notes, people want the project to succeed; you can use the IndieGoGo campaign as evidence. With the help of a clever video and social media they flew past their goal of $1 million. They may be on pace to double that before the new June 20 deadline.

The space program that came of age in the 1960’s turned on a whole new generation to technology, the internet repeated that feat. Perhaps solar roadways will turn on a new generation to what technology can make possible or maybe it’s another silly idea that makes you stop and think. Time will tell.

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