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Smart solar panelled roads pave the way to the future
Smart solar panelled roads pave the way to the future

It's crazy. It'll never work. They cost too much. They'll crack. They're too delicate. You'll slide off them. Oil companies will never let it happen. Skeptics abound, but solar panels may soon replace traditional roads in one American town.

Scott Brusaw, an electrical engineer from Idaho, has heard it all before.

Over the past eight years, skeptics have been telling him his concept for solar roadways — replacing America's roads with solar panels — won't work.

But Brusaw suddenly has a reason why it will — actually, two million of them.

Solar Roadways' crowdfunding campaign raised more than $2 million — more than double what Brusaw was seeking — in just two months.

The campaign attracted more than 48,000 backers from 165 countries.

A close-up of the solar panels installed in Scott Brusaw's driveway. Source: Solar Roadways

"It's been humbling," Brusaw, 56, told Yahoo News. "Really, really humbling."

The campaign was given a lift by celebrity Twitter endorsements from George Takei and Sean Lennon.

Brusaw, who launched Solar Roadways with his wife, Julie, says the funds will be used to open an office, hire staffers and test his prototype in Sandpoint, Idaho, which wants to be the first city to have them.

The concept has also received interest from an Amtrak station and the Sandpoint Airport, but they'll start with footpaths and car parks in town in the spring, Brusaw says.

"At the end of this year, we'll have a finished product," Brusaw said.

"It's not going to happen overnight — there's a learning curve here. Once we're convinced the final product works in a parking lot, we'll try residential roads. Then, eventually, the fast lane of a highway."

An artist's rendition of a motorway lined with solar panels. Source: Solar Roadways

According to his calculations, the "smart" solar panels — encased in double-layered, bomb-resistant, bulletproof glass capable of withstanding 250,000 pounds — would, among other things, be able to generate "three times the electricity currently used in the United States," prevent accidents by melting snow and ice (and warning drivers of debris in the road with solar-powered LED lights) and even collect storm water. Oh, and cut greenhouse emissions by as much as 75 percent.

Brusaw, a former Marine Corps weapons technician, says he and his wife came up with the idea after watching Al Gore's film "Inconvenient Truth."

Yet despite the obvious environmental benefits, Brusaw says the idea initially received little interest from investors.

"Everybody was interested, but no one was willing to give us research money," he said.

It wasn't until he starting pitching the concept as intelligent infrastructure and a smart grid that it caught fire.

Artist's interpretation of solar roadways installed in Sandpoint, Idaho. Source: Sam Cornett/Solar Roadways

In 2009, Brusaw got $750,000 from the Federal Highway Administration to develop the prototype.

"They're interested in infrastructure, and that's what we make," he said.

Grand ideas aside, Brusaw remains realistic.

"Ten years from now, I hope we have a whole lot of parking lots and a whole lot of driveways," he said.

"And the fast lane of a highway."

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