The idea has been floating around for years, but Solar Roadways, a startup founded in 2006, is the first to install solar powered road panels in the US. The company revealed the 30-panel system in Sandpoint, Idaho. Residents can bike and walk on the brightly-lit panels, and the modest installation is the first step in proving that solar panel roads are no longer a hopeful aspiration.
Each Solar Roadways panel is made from tempered glass and is textured to create traction, but the first eye-catching characteristic is their ability to generate 16 million colors. These LEDs can be used to replace traffic signs, road lines, and eventually, the company wants future panels to have load embedded sensors to warn drivers of animals or other obstructions in the road.
The energy generated by the 30-panel display will offset electrical costs for the restroom and other amenities at Sandpoint Town Square. The current panels have heating elements to maintain the temperature surface so that snow and ice don’t accumulate. But that’s not all these solar panels can do.
The company aims to replace driveways, highways, parking lots, and basically any other flat surfaces with Solar Roadways’ durable solar panels which can hold up to 250,000 lbs. Upcoming installations of Solar Roadways will be in Baltimore, Maryland and Conway, Missouri.
Thanks to lowered costs of solar panels, solar energy systems are popping up on residential and commercial roofs all over the country. But solar powered energy doesn’t stop there. There are solar powered tents, air conditioners, backpacks, and solar panels for your mobile home. And now solar panels are on our roads. What will be next?