If you have ever visited New York City during a snowstorm, you know that the many of the streets in Manhattan are cleared very quickly – not necessarily by snowplows, but by the heat rising from the crowded, speeding subways several stories down.
That would be one of the many benefits of the solar paving envisioned by Scott and Julie Brusaw, whose Idaho-based company, Solar Roadways, has been awarded $750,000 by the Federal Highway Administration for a Phase II Small Business innovative Research (SBIR) contract to design and build a solar parking lot – the next phase of development for this particular type of green technology.
During phase one of the project, the Brusaws used an initial grant of $100,000 from the federal government to construct a 12 by 12 foot prototype of the technology. The first prototype is constructed out of LED lights, solar panels, and a variety of heating elements. All of these parts are encased in a type of glass that is durable, doesn’t reflect a glare from the sun or headlights, and has the same traction as asphalt.
Generating 7.6kilowatt hours of electricity per day, the power can be used to melt snow and ice in case of inclement weather. This would also allow homeowners that install a solar driveway to avoid shoveling snow for the rest of their lives. It can also be tied into a smart grid to help power businesses, homes, and even charging stations for electric vehicles.
The LED lights embedded into the roadway have a variety of uses. They can “paint” the road lines, to provide easy-to-see lanes, as well as street lights, all in one. They also can be used to warn drivers about detours, accidents or construction ahead.
And airports may consider using the LED lights as landing lights, and the solar panels and heating elements to keep runways, free of slippery ice.
“The Solar Roadway is a series of structurally-engineered solar panels that are driven upon. The idea is to replace all current petroleum-based asphalt roads, parking lots, and driveways with Solar Road Panels that collect energy to be used by our homes and businesses,” said Scott Brusaw. “Our ultimate goal is to be able to store excess energy in or alongside the Solar Roadways. This renewable energy replaces the need for the current fossil fuels used for the generation of electricity. This, in turn, cuts greenhouse gases literally in half.”
Each individual panel comprises three layers:
- Road Surface Layer – Translucent and high-strength, it is rough enough to provide excellent traction, yet still passes sunlight through to the solar collector cells embedded within, along with LEDs and a heating element. It is capable of handling today's heaviest loads under the worst of conditions. Weatherproof, it protects the electronics layer beneath it.
- Electronics Layer – This layer contains a microprocessor board with support circuitry for sensing loads on the surface and controlling a heating element. That means no more snow/ice removal and no more school/business closings due to inclement weather. The on-board microprocessor controls lighting, communications, monitoring, and more. With a communications device every 12 feet, the Solar Roadway is an intelligent highway system.
- Base Plate Layer – While the electronics layer collects energy from the sun, it is the base plate layer that distributes power (collected from the electronics layer) and data signals (phone, TV, Internet,) “down line” to all homes and businesses connected to the Solar Roadway. Weatherproof, it protects the electronics layer above it.
The Brusaws estimate that the cost of building and installing the panels will be triple that of asphalt construction. However, they say, the solar roadway, driveway, sidewalk, or runway will slowly pay for itself over time, if the electricity is put to good use. The couple will test the parking lot in a variety of conditions. If all goes well, they envision rolling out the product to the public for installation on residential properties.
Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Jennifer Russell