Solar Roadways Make Headlines

Isaiah Mouw

Remember Solar Roadways from the general session presentation at the 2013 IPI Conference and Expo in Ft. Lauderdale? Scott and Julie Brusaw, inventors and co-founders of Solar Roadways, introduced their concept of solar road panels and what they can do for the parking industry and the world (click here to read the feature about their project in The Parking Professional). If you had the opportunity to sit in on the presentation, you witnessed something special. And now, the little company with big aspirations is moving closer to fulfilling those aspirations.

Just this week the Brusaws announced on their Facebook page that they were “chosen by our peers as a finalist in the World Technology Awards in the category of Energy. We are amazed to find ourselves in the company of so many remarkable people. Some of the other finalists in various categories include: Mark Zuckerberg, Sal Khan, Andreessen Horowitz, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, Bill and Melinda Gates and Elon Musk. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in N.Y. in November. Our selection as finalists means that we are now Fellows of the World Technology Network. What an honor!”

There’s more news, too: Solar Roadways’ short documentary directed by Michele Ohayon, which was shown at the 2013 IPI Conference & Expo, will be featured at the Big Eddy film festival in New York on September 21. You might even be on a date with your significant other and have this short documentary shown at the movie theatre before your movie starts. That’s because thanks to a partnership with Spotlight Cinema Network, the Solar Roadways documentary will screen before features at all Regency and Landmark Theatres between August 23 and September 19.

The Brusaws hope to pave the world with solar panel roadways, but it all begins with a parking lot. It’s pretty cool that we all saw the inception of this movement. What can parking professionals do to support their work? You can help spread the word on social media. I am a big fan of TED Talks and think that Scott Brusaw would make an excellent TED speaker. You can nominate him here as a TED Speaker. I think it would speak volumes if parking professionals helped get him chosen, to help further their message and concept of Solar Roadways.

There’s more ahead for solar roads and parking lots. Stay tuned!

Solar Roadways and Parking Lots

Isaiah Mouw

I recently stumbled across this video about Solar Roadways. The concept involves turning roadways and parking lots into solar panel road surfaces that generate electricity. Inventor and co-founder of the Solar Roadways project Scott Brushaw explains, “There are 25,000 square miles of road surfaces, parking lots and driveways in the lower 48 states. If we covered that with solar panels with just 15 percent efficiency, we’d produce three times more electricity than this country uses on an annual basis and that’s almost enough to power the entire world. Roads are collecting heat anyway; this thing collects the power and stores it.”

One concern was creating glass strong enough to support the heaviest loads under the most extreme conditions, but they believe they’ve created a weatherproof, high-strength surface that’s up to the task. But the biggest concern is, of course, cost. One of these solar panels (12’x12’) can cost up to $7,000, and the plans to cover the roadways would call for billions of these panels. Do the math.

The Solar Roadway project recently received a $750,000.00 grant to build the first solar surface parking lot. With an estimated industry average cost of $4,000.00 per space to construct a parking lot, this $750,000 is not as large as it first seems. These solar panels consist of embedded LEDs that can be used to create crosswalks or traffic warnings. They could also be used to mark parking spaces. Imagine being able to change your layout design any day of the week, depending on your demand. These panels will also have the capability to charge electric vehicles while parked. The system will warm itself during the winter to melt away any snow or ice. The Solar Roadways team should have the parking lot completed in November and will be presenting the results shortly after.

This is not just a sustainability issue. Yes, it is very sustainable as the renewable energy from the proposed Solar Roadways project would literally cut greenhouse gases in half. But it may also make economic sense sometime in the future. The cost of petroleum-based asphalt continues to rise, while solar power has been falling at a rate of 7 percent per year for the last 30 years.  As technology improves each year, the cost of solar technologies should continue to drop. Solar panel surface parking lots could pay for themselves quickly as they generate renewable energy in the future.

To me, solar road surfaces is an important aspect  of the future of parking. Not this decade or even the next, but down the road, I think we will all be parking on solar surfaces.