Is the road of the future about to become reality? Perhaps you remember reading about “Smart Solar Roadways” in the fall 2014 issue of Development magazine. Author Nicola Davies, Ph.D., described emerging innovations in technology and engineering that could integrate solar panels with road surfaces, creating streets and highways with embedded microprocessors and LED lights. Those roadways could then “be programmed to delineate driving lanes, parking spaces, crosswalks and more.” They also could be used to recharge electric vehicles as they’re travelling.
According to a recent Global Construction Review article, the first of those energy-generating photovoltaic tempered glass pavers will be rolled out soon in Missouri, along a section of the famous Route 66. The state’s transportation department plans to test the pavers by installing them at the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center at Conway. This would be the first installation of the pavers, produced by Solar Roadways, on a public right of way. Tom Blair, leader of the state’s Road to Tomorrow Initiative, expects the pavers to be in place before the end of 2016. The state department hopes to fund the project via a crowdfunding initiative similar to the one Solar Roadways conducted on Indiegogo in 2014, which raised nearly $2.3 million in two months, more than double the company’s $1 million target.
Several European countries are also pursuing the development of solar roads. According to another Global Construction Review article, a Dutch consortium – consisting of the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), the province of North-Holland, construction firm Ooms Civiel and Imtech Traffic & Infra – has been developing its own tempered glass and solar panel technology since 2009. One of its primary technical challenges involved creating tempered glass that worked as a road surface while repelling dirt to keep it as translucent as possible. In November 2014, the consortium built a 100-meter (328-foot) power-generating SolaRoad bike path to road test the technology in Krommenie; it will add another 20 meters (66 feet) this fall.
In the most ambitious solar road project to date, earlier this year, according to an Autoblog article, the French company Colas, working with the national government, announced plans to undertake a huge project known as Wattway. Colas is working with INES, the French National Institute for Solar Energy, to cover about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) of roads with its Wattway photovoltaic pavement, which can be installed directly atop existing pavement. The project could generate enough energy to power almost 10 percent of the homes in France.
Do you think solar roadways will ever become commonplace? Would you be interested in testing the technology in an industrial park, office park, parking lot or other commercial real estate project? Let us know by posting a message in the comment box below.
Concept rendering of a solar highway courtesy of Solar Roadways®.