Back when the concept of global warming was still nascent—only eight years ago, mind you—Scott and Julie Brusaw of Sagle, Idaho, began heavily contemplating an idea that Scott, an electrical engineer, had toyed with as a child: solar panel roads.
After years of figuring out many ways not to make a solar panel, the Brusaws have developed a modular-panel paving system that's attracted interest from the Federal Highway Administration, General Electric, and even Google. If their Indiegogo campaign, started this past Earth Day, receives $1 million by the end of May, the Brusaw's company, Solar Roadways, will be able to test its heavy-duty tempered-glass product in parking lots and eventually highways throughout the country.
The versatile paneling has a lot going for it. Where most roads ice over in the winter, solar roadways are equipped with heating elements that keep them clear. Where blacktop consumes light and requires bright headlights to navigate at night, solar roadways come outfitted with road-powered LEDs. Where potholes burden travelers for months, individual damaged panels can be fixed in a matter of minutes because nearby panels deliver automated alerts to electricians. They can even store and treat stormwater that erodes current byways and put an end to a Wi-Fi-less America.
Most impressive is Solar Roadways' energy and capital potential: The Brusaws did the math and found their panels more than pay for themselves. Solar panel technology is not cheap when done correctly, but Solar Roadways could conceivably produce more than three times the electricity Americans use each year.
That energy would power homes, roads, and as of today, even the White House. President Obama announced a plan to push solar energy in 2010 and is reinforcing his intent by symbolically reinstalling solar panels at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.