Solar-Powered Highways Eliminate Snow & Ice

Update: January 6, 2011 Is This the City Car of the Future?, November 14, 2010 The Gardiner Expressway Encased in  Glass?

Picture by Dan Walden/Scott - An artist's conception of engineer Scott Bursaw's proposed solar roadway, which would resist ice and snow

see source, CNN “Solar-powered ‘smart’ roads could zap snow, ice”

The budgets of cities in North America dedicate resources to snow clearance and snow and ice removal every year.

Motorists and pedestrians alike are faced with challenges due to inclement weather and harsh winters.

Recently New York City faced a blizzard that they did not anticipate and could not handle and as a result, there were casualities.

An electrical engineer from Idaho has an idea that he hopes will prevent cities from being held hostage to snow and ice on the roads.

53 year old Scott Brusaw has a vision of a solar-powered roadway made from super-strong glass, instead of conventional asphalt or concrete. Solar cells inside its glass surface would allow the roadway to act as a giant solar power generator, fueling embedded heating elements and making plows and other snow removal equipment unnecessary.

Picture by Dan Walden/Scott - Solar road panels would include glass layers, solar power cells, heating elements and LED road markers.

The heating elements would work “like in the rear window of your car,” said the inventor, who intends to experiment with temperature settings during the next stages of the development process.

Electricity generated by the highway could be used to recharge electric vehicles and to power lights and LED warning signs along the road itself.

One idea is to embed the pavement with half-inch pipes filled with a fluid that resists freezing. In warmer weather, sun-heated fluid is stored in an insulated chamber, where it stays hot. Then, in cold weather when it’s needed, that hot fluid is sent through the pipes to melt ice and snow.

In the summer, the system could link parking lots to adjacent buildings, Mallick said, transferring heat from the asphalt to water tanks in adjacent buildings, which would save electricity.

Even a warm weather city like Miami, Florida, could benefit from temperature-regulated pavements. The Worcester project estimates that every 50 meters of pipe embedded in Miami pavement would cost $12,500 to construct, $1,000 a year to maintain and would yield enough annual energy from its heat to power 55 homes for a month.

How can glass provide enough traction while supporting the weight, wear and tear of a conventional concrete or asphalt highway? Glass, especially when fused together in layers, is stronger than most people think, said Brusaw. He said he’s joined forces with top glass researchers at University of Dayton and Penn State who can develop super-strong glass that would offer vehicles the traction they need.

How much would the solar highway cost?

Brusaw calculates an estimated cost — in great detail — on his website. Short answer: each mile would cost $4.4 million.

Can the solar highway’s surface collect enough sunlight when it’s filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic?

Yes, Brusaw says. Even when roadways are filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic, solar collection would be at 50 percent, he estimates.

“Our ultimate goal is to be able to store excess energy in or alongside the Solar Roadways,” the project’s website states. “This renewable energy replaces the need for the current fossil fuels used for the generation of electricity. This, in turn, cuts greenhouse gases literally in half.”


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