Solar roadways are here, and depending on who you talk to, they’re either going to be incredible or kill us all. If that sounds like hyperbole, it is–but not by much. There’s so much controversy surrounding the Indiegogo solar roadways project that it seems like the debate is being fueled by…I don’t know, some kind of indefinitely renewable energy source.
Let’s break it down for those of you who don’t know what solar roads are. Back in 2008, Scott and Julie Brusaw had an idea: to combat the scourge of global warming–at the time a fairly new buzzword thanks to “An Inconvenient Truth”–why not put solar panels on things we make out of asphalt and concrete? This basic idea quickly blossomed into one with a host of new design features. The panels could have LED lights on them to broadcast public service announcements and emergency messages, and have heating elements inside to fight ice and snow accumulation. The Solar Roadways company was born from this concept. The Brusaws dreamed of a world where cars would travel on paths of solar panels housed under nigh-invulnerable glass, guided by LED markers and warned of animals in the road by warning lights.
In 2009, the Brusaws got funding from the government to go ahead and start making prototypes for the solar roadways project. They’ve been slowly plugging away ever since, until a few months ago. That’s when they decided to make the Indiegogo solar roadways campaign to raise a million bucks to hire a bunch of engineers that would make the whole concept a reality. (As of now, they’ve only been able to make a parking-lot sized test area.) As of today, they’re just short of two million.
With success, obviously, comes controversy. People have written about the project for years, but now it’s getting a whole lot more traction. Boosters say that solar roadways are our ticket out of oil dependence, will make road repair much easier, and could herald the second coming of Jesus. Critics remind us that the second coming means the end of the world is near, and express concerns both about cleaning the solar roadways and how much the whole project is going to cost.
The Brusaws have lots of answers for these fears on their FAQ page, but not enough to silence the haters, who insist on knowing everything immediately or else the project is automatically a failure. Scott has said he won’t know about definite cost projections until July 2014, after the engineers have had some time to analyze the production of the solar roadways and can devise a way to mass-produce them. We’re willing to wait for answers, ourselves. Solar roadways definitely sound like “living in the future” territory, and if there’s one thing we’ve always wanted, it’s to live in a science fiction novel. You can find out much more about the project on its official website.