Crowdsourcing bonanza boosts inventors’ plan to pave America solar

After getting more than $2m in a crowdsourcing campaign, a husband-and-wife team of inventors in the US say that the first public installations of their patented solar paving technology will be in place next spring.

In April this year, Scott and Julie Brusaw, founders of Solar Roadways, set out to raise a million dollars to commercialise the system they believe could be used to pave all of America’s 31,000 square miles of roads and parking lots with glass panels that generate electricity. 

Doing so would power the whole country, they claim.

So captivating was their message, however, that in just two months, between 22 April and 20 June, donors stumped up $2.2m, more than double the Brusaws’ target. They wanted the cash to hire researchers in material science, civil and structural engineering to prepare for a commercial launch.

To date the only application of the system is the parking lot of the couple’s home-cum-laboratory in Idaho, funded by a $750,000 grant from the US Federal Highway Administration.

Now, thanks to the crowdsourcing bonanza via the Indiegogo platform, they say they will install the system in as-yet-unnamed public spaces in the spring of next year.

They have also shut the door on a blizzard of interview requests so they can concentrate on work.

"After a big round of interviews during our Indiegogo campaign, we have stopped accepting interviews so that we get back to work on engineering!" they announced on their website. "The next window of opportunity for interviews will coincide with our first public installations – we are shooting for spring of 2015."

The pair have been working on their system for 10 years. They got a boost in 2009 in the form of a $100,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to build a prototype solar road panel. They say that the panels can bear loads of 113 tonnes. As well as generating electricity, the powered pavement could emit LED light for glowing road markings, and heat, to melt ice.

They claim that paving all of America’s roads and parking lots with the panels would generate 13,385 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, more than three times what the whole country consumed in 2009.

Photograph: Scott and Julie Brusaw, founders of Solar Roadways, with their tempered glass paving panels (Solar Roadways)

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  1. So what’s happening with this project?

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