The picture could be from any small town in the United States. The only thing that stands out is the colour of the road and car park in the town in Idaho: they have been surfaced with hexagonal plates that are green.
The plates are made of tempered glass and hide solar panels underneath. The road and car park produce electricity. The image is only an artist’s rendition of the novel idea but a small car park complete with solar panels already exists in reality.
Electrical engineer Scott Brunsaw and his wife Julie Brunsaw are the founders of Solar Roadways, a company developing technology for generating electricity with solar panels embedded in the road surface.
The Brunsaws worked on their idea for a long time in the noughties before receiving funding from the Federal Highway Administration in 2009, which they put towards developing a prototype of a road with solar panels.
At the first phase, they tested the solar panels indoors. Research teams at universities focussed on the durability and traction of the glass surface and found that using tempered glass as a surface material was a feasible idea.
On the strength of these promising results, the Brunshaws were able to secure more funding, allowing them to produce a combined solar power plant and car park.
Now they have launched a crowdsourcing campaign to raise funds needed to gear up for production at a commercial level. So far, they have collected more than 1.5 million dollars.
Testing carried out in January and February revealed that the glass surface cuts the amount of electricity produced by panels by around 11 per cent but the technology still produces enough energy to make it a promising innovation.
Scott Brunsaw has calculated that if all the roads in the US were surfaced with these panels, the energy generated would be triple the current US energy consumption.
He erred on the side of caution in his calculation as it is based on winter conditions in Northern Idaho.
Future road generates energy