USA at its best: Solar Roadways

Scott & Julie Brusaw, founders of Solar Roadways

The USA is such a bizarre mix of the good and the bad. The bad stuff we know about: extreme inequality, dysfunctional national politics, crazy gun laws and the death penalty to name just a few. Today I just want to mention a few of the better things.

Barack Obama’s announcement about cutting carbon emissions from power plants by 30% by 2030, although perhaps not enough and not soon enough, is still welcome news. He’s made a couple of good speeches lately linking it to air quality and human health issues, and attacking the head in the sand approach of climate change denial. He’s also using his executive authority to push through higher standards for the fuel efficiency of large trucks. Perhaps at last after decades of poor leadership from American Presidents things are beginning to change?

At the city level the USA seems less dysfunctional than at national level. One example of real city led leadership is San Francisco’s aim to achieve zero waste to landfill or incineration. If they achieve this goal it would be a global first for a comparable sized city.

However it is at the level of individuals and small groups of people achieving socially and or technologically innovative breakthroughs that the USA really excels. My current favourite example of this is Solar Roadways.

Scott and Julie Brusaw developed the idea of replacing asphalt with solar panels from a small workshop in Idaho. They designed a sufficiently strong glass surface with great traction capable of carrying heavy traffic. The roads would generate electricity, and if all asphalt roads, car parks and cycle paths were replaced with their solar roadways this would produce three times the total American electricity consumption. All coal and gas power stations could be closed, and as electric cars could be recharged directly from the road while in motion, it would be a very achievable goal to replace all the fossil-fuel powered cars and trucks. Ducting under the roads could also be used for multiple functions, replacing electricity pylons and allowing for the rapid deployment of super-fast broadband. Storm water could also be dealt with in innovative and sustainable ways. Technologically this seems just brilliant.

The funding has been in part socially innovative: they’ve just raised $2,200,961 from 48,746 backers through the Indiegogo crowdfunding website. They have the most amazing range of online videos, from the fun ‘Solar Freaking Roadways’ video that went viral, to more sober TED talks. Do have a look at some of them via the link below. This really is America at it’s best: highly innovative, collaborative and inclusive. This is the very best kind of technology that seeks to solve multiple problems simultaneously. Solar Roadways is a strong contender for my technology of the year!


Obama and and on trucks

San Francisco

Solar Roadways: the 7.00 min fun Solar Freaking Roadways video is near the top on this page, the TED talks lower down the page.