Inventor Pushes Solar Panels for Roads, Highways

Solar Roadways/APInventors Scott and Julie Brusaw stand for a photo on a prototype solar-panel parking area at their company's business in Sandpoint, Idaho.

SPOKANE, Wash. -- The solar panels that Idaho inventor Scott Brusaw has built aren't meant for rooftops. They are meant for roads, driveways, parking lots, bike trails and, eventually, highways.

Brusaw, an electrical engineer, says the hexagon-shaped panels can withstand the wear and tear that comes from inclement weather and vehicles, big and small, to generate electricity.

"We need to rebuild our infrastructure," said Brusaw, the head of Solar Roadways, based in Sandpoint, Idaho, about 90 miles northeast of Spokane, Washington. His idea contains "something for everyone to like."

"Environmentalists like it," he said. "Climate change deniers like it because it creates jobs."

While the idea may sound outlandish to some, it has already got $850,000 in seed money from the federal government, raised more than $2 million on a crowd-funding website and received celebrity praise.

Solar Roadways is part of a larger movement that seeks to integrate renewable energy technology -- including wind, geothermal and hydro power -- seamlessly into society.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group based in Washington, D.C., described companies like Solar Roadways as "niche markets" in the booming alternative energy industry.

"They represent the type of creative innovation that addresses design and energy, while showcasing the diversity of solar applications," said Tom Kimbis, a vice president of the association.

Brusaw said that in addition to producing energy, the solar panels can melt away snow and ice, and display warning messages or traffic lines with LED lights.

There are skeptics, who wonder about the durability of the panels, which are covered by knobby, tempered glass, and how they would perform in severe weather or were covered with dirt.

"It seems like something reasonable and something that is going to be very expensive," said Lamar Evans of the National Renewable Energy Association in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Another problem would be how to store the electricity that could be generated, Evans said.

The Brusaws have produced no estimates of how much the solar panels would cost, so the financial realities of their vision remain an unknown.

To demonstrate the concept, the company has created a small parking lot at its headquarters, using 108 solar panels. Vehicles have been driven onto the space, without damaging the panels, he said.

"We'll start off small with driveways and walkways," he said.

His wife Julie came up with the idea after watching "An Inconvenient Truth," the global warming movie featuring former Vice President Al Gore, Brusaw said.

She remembered that Scott had long talked about the concept of electric roads.

The U.S. Federal Highway Administration gave the Brusaws $850,000 to develop Solar Roadways over the past few years, and build the prototype parking lot.

This year, they turned to the Indiegogo crowd-funding site to raise additional money and move to the next phase. Launched on Earth Day, the campaign got off to a discouraging start, Brusaw said.

Donations trickled in slowly, but two factors helped spread the company's vision: a viral YouTube video and celebrity mentions in social media. The video has more than 14 million views.

The floodgates opened when actor George Takei of "Star Trek" fame and the TV show "MythBusters" mentioned the company. They received donations from more than 45,000 people in 50 countries.

The money will enable the company to hire staff and begin production of more panels, Brusaw said.

"Once we've perfected everything, our ultimate goal will be highways," he said.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Goal Setting

Want to succeed? Then you need goals!

View Course »

Introduction to Preferred Shares

Learn the difference between preferred and common shares.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

common sense people, lots of money wasted

July 13 2014 at 10:34 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

What an outstanding idea! Fix TWO problems with one solution: (1) the necessity to make huge quantities of petroleum-based tar, and generating additional power at the same time. Genius!

July 13 2014 at 9:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


July 13 2014 at 6:29 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to gnobie01's comment

Spoken like a lowlife ambulance chasing attorney.

July 13 2014 at 9:51 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

this is really brilliant concept, parking lotts too, as long as they can withstand the bruttal feezing winters,, I think less pot holes too, just think about all the jobbs lost in maintence, however only redirected to another field of maintence,followed by manufacturing and installs,maybee even the railroad could be intrested, in a concept.

July 13 2014 at 4:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yea hit those with a snow plow lol lol ...............

July 13 2014 at 7:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to jcecoman13's comment

They can heat up to melt the snow/ice. So all the money towns and cities pay for salt and trucks and gas would be saved. Still it's probably got a long way to go. I just thought that part would be cool, if even for my driveway.

July 13 2014 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey DUNDERHEAD -- They Do NOT require a snow plow!!!!!! Don't know how to READ, do you!!!

July 14 2014 at 12:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Per SeniorCitizenLocalWeb ... "Alternative and Fossil fuel energy sources are an important part of the USA, and of the USA listing provided here covers many, but not all sites that are available for tourist explorations. Some sites are suitable for children, some for adults only, some for seniors, some have handicap provisions, some have snack areas, some have airport facilities, and some are totally out of the way and will require considerable effort to locate and tour."

The following are alternative energy sites that may be open for tours...

July 13 2014 at 1:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Beowawe Geothermal
Brady Geothermal

Desert Peak Geothermal

Salton Sea Geothermal,
Soda Lake Geothermal
Steamboat Geothermal
Stillwater Geothermal

The Geysers Geothermal

July 13 2014 at 1:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Photovoltaic Power Stations
Alamosa photovoltaic power plant

Davidson County solar farm
DeSoto County Florida

High Plains Ranch

KCRD Solar Farm
Kennedy Space Center

Nellis Solar Power Plant

Topaz Solar Farm

July 13 2014 at 1:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wind Farms - Proposed 2009 to --
Beech Ridge Wind Farm

Franklin County Wind Farm

Golden Hills Wind Farm

Hartland Wind Farm
High Country Energy Wind Farm

McAdoo Wind farm
McCormick Ranch Wind Park
Milford Wind Farm

Pampa Wind Project
Pine Canyon Wind Farm
Pine Tree Wind Project

Shepherds Flat Wind Farm

Tehachapi Renewal Project
Titan Wind Project

Valley City -Lake Ashtabula Wind Farm

Wind Farms
Adair Wind Farm
Allegheny Front
Altamont Pass Wind Farm
Ashtabula Wind Farm

Barton Chapel Wind Farm
Barton Wind Farm
Benton County Wind Farm
Big Horn Wind Farm
Biglow Canyon Wind Farm
Bliss Wind Farm
Blue Canyon Wind Farm
Blue Sky Green Field Wind Farm
Brazos Wind Ranch
Buffalo Gap Wind Farm
Bull Creek Wind Farm

Callahan Divide Wind Farm
Camp Springs Wind Farm
Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm
Camp Grove Wind Farm
Carroll Wind Farm
Cedar Creek Wind Farm
Centennial Wind Farm
Century Wind Farm
Champion Wind Farm
Colorado Green Wind Farm
Crystal Lake Wind Farm

Desert Sky Wind Farm
Dutch Hill Cohocton Wind Farm

Elbow Creek Wind Project
Elk River Wind Farm

Fenton Wind Farm
Forest Creek Wind Farm
Fowler Ridge Wind Farm

Goodland I
Gray County Wind Farm
Green Mt. Energy Wind Farm
Gulf Wind Farm

Hackberry Wind Farm
High Winds Wind Farm
Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center

Intrepid Wind Farm

Judith Gap Wind Farm

Kibby Wind Power Project
King Mountain Wind Farm
Klondike Wind Farm

Langdon Wind Energy Center
Lone Star Wind Farm

Maple Ridge Wind Farm
Marengo Wind Farm
McAdoo Wind Farm
Milford Wind Corridor Project

Montezuma Hills
Mount Storm Wind Farm

NedPower Mount Storm I
New Mexico Wind Energy Center
Noble Chateaugay windpark
Noble Weathersfield Windpark

Pacific Northwest
Panther Creek Wind Farm
Peetz Wind Farm
Peñascal Wind Farm
Pine Tree Wind Farm
Pioneer Prairie Wind Farm
Pomeroy Wind Farm
Prarie Star Wind Farm
Pyron Wind Farm

Red Hills Wind Farm
Roscoe Wind Farm

San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm
Sherbino Wind Farm
Shiloh Wind Farm
Smoky Hills Wind Farm
Solano County
Stanton Energy Center
Stateline Wind Project
Story County Wind Farm
Sweetwater Wind Farm

Tatanka Wind Farm
Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm
Trent Wind Farm
Turkey Track Wind Farm
Twin Groves Wind Farm

Walnut Wind Project
White Creek Wind Power Project
Wild Horse Wind Farm
Wildorado Wind Ranch
Woodward Wind Farm

July 13 2014 at 1:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Antelope Valley

Beacon Solar Energy Project

Carrizo Solar Farm
City of Palmdale Hybrid Power Project

Fort Irwin

Imperial Valley

Kimberlina solar thermal power plant

Mojave Solar Park

Nevada Solar One


San Joaquin Solar 1 and 2
Solana solar power plant

Victorville 2 Hybrid Power Project

Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company

Wind Cooperatives
Dakota Wind Energy

Emmet County Energy

High Country Energy

Lake Country Wind Energy

Root River Energy

Wind Farms - offshore - proposed
Buzzards Bay Wind Farm (offshore)

Cape Wind (offshore)

Long Island Offshore Wind Park (offshore)

July 13 2014 at 1:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply