Solar paving to make first public US appearance on Route 66

The US state of Missouri has decided to test solar paving technology on America’s most famous road, Route 66.

The state’s transportation department will use tough, electricity-generating panels developed by the pioneering husband-and-wife team Scott and Julie Brusaw, founders of the company Solar Roadways, who captivated the US in 2014 with their plan to pave America with solar panels.

The department hopes that the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center at Conway will get the country’s first solar roadway panels on a public right of way, in a move one official said would bring "the history and the future together".

The plan was unveiled this week in Kansas City as one of four pilot schemes to probe future highways technology in the state.

"If their version of the future is realistic, if we can make that happen, then roadways can begin paying for themselves," said Tom Blair, leader of the department’s Road to Tomorrow Initiative, according to newspaper The Kansas City Star.

"We expect them to be in place, I’m hoping, by the end of this year, maybe before snow flies," Blair said, adding the project could generate a lot of interest by bringing "the history and the future together".

It was not revealed how large an area would be paved with the panels. According to the newspaper, to get the most out of the project the department will seek crowd funding.

The latest model of Solar Roadways’ electricity-generating paving panel (Solar Roadways)

In this the department will be hoping to replicate the success of Solar Roadways’ 2014 crowd funding campaign, in which they raised $2.2m in two months, more than double their target of $1m.

The Brusaws, of Sandpoint, Idaho, have been working on their system for 12 years, and 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 have since received two more research grants from the US Department of Transportation, the latest in November 2015, worth $750,000, to study freeze-thaw cycling, moisture conditioning, shear testing, and advanced loading on their third-generation panel prototype.

They have claimed 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 the amount the whole country consumed in 2009.

"We are going to go out there publicly and on the internet … and ask for money to make our solar roadway pilot project even bigger and better," Tom Blair said.

More information about Solar Roadways can be found here.

In January this year GCR reported that the government of France intends to pave 1,000km of road with photovoltaic panels over the next five years.

The idea drew strong criticism from readers, who questioned the viability of paving roads with solar panels.

Top photograph: A concept rendering of a solar-paved highway (Solar Roadways)

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  1. Ugh. Not this again.

    From an engineering perspective, there is absolutely no validity to solar roadways.

    I am ALL FOR green technology, improving the human condition through technology, and so on. Any money spent on this absurd pet-project with weirdly good PR is wasting money which could fund actually legitimate research or infrastructure.

  2. What a load of crock,you only have to watch a few “Solar Roadways” debunking videos on youtube by electrical engineers to see why it’s nonsense.These government departments must get to much money to be wasting it on this nonsense.

  3. What about using this for residential driveways for home energy & keeping the driveway ice & snow free? My driveway is ruined from ice & snow & I don’t really want panels on my roof. Just a thought!

  4. How many times does this need to be debunked? It makes no sense to build panels on the ground when they would be far more efficient on houses, buildings, any elevated surface that isn’t driven over.

  5. It’s conceptually interesting, but it seems to me it would be labor intensive to install and it would have to generate quite a bit of electricity to alleviate the extra cost. This isn’t even taking in the issues with grip, wear and maintenance over time.

    I’d think some highway and interstate grid areas would perhaps be good places to setup some solar along side road lights etc.

  6. Interesting to see the nay sayers… hmmm? are they from the fossil fuel industry? Let’s check. Please let us know who provides your paycheck…

  7. The Idea is great, but the technology is wrong.
    1. over time the glass will be polished into a smooth surface, making traction nonexistent.
    2. most of the road’s surface will be covered by cars during day time, so energy production will be far far less than expected
    3. nothing is water proof for a long time, especially if its heavy use, so electrical problems will occur very often .
    it would be much more efficient to convert all the rooftops into solar panels, and lets face it… there is much more rooftop surface area in U.S. than there is roadways, plus most of the rooftops dont have cars blocking the sunlight.

  8. let’s see… naysayers in the 1800s debunked the Iron Horse… steam powered locomotive railroads were commonplace by the 1840s 1850s….
    Naysayers debunked the modern telegraph in the 1840s…
    Samuel P Morse demonstrated the Morse Code in May 1844 in Washington DC
    Naysayers debunked the horseless carriage about the same time Daimler Benz of Europe and , Frank Duryea of the USA were demonstrating their prototypes about the 1880s ….
    Do I need to continue??? so you guys need to be quiet and let technology advance….

  9. This project seems like it would make more sense for roads that have spurious activity, like lonely desert highways across the southwest. Parking lots that are empty during the day, but filled in the evenings? None of the roadways in Los Angeles area would generate that much electricity because they are always covered with cars. Rooftop solar still makes more sense. It doesn’t have anything driving over it, it doesn’t require this ridiculous amount of r&d for the covers to work with cars on them, and it easily ties into the grid. None of which can be said for solar roadways. this is a prohibitively expensive way to try and increase solar usage. It would be cheaper for the state to start giving businesses and homeowners rooftop solar, yes buying it for them, then trying to develop this pie in the sky idea.

  10. One wonders about the practicality of these solar panels as highway surfacing. What is the expected wear life expectancy compared to more traditional roads surfaces such as asphalt and concrete and the cost per mile to replace at the end of that time? How does traction under both dry and wet or icy conditions compare with traditional paving substances – will these panels be more slippery when wet than asphalt roadways? What is the expected shaded/illuminated ratio from traffic passing over them? How well can they resist damage from snow plowing equipment in the winter? And finally, what is the expected cost per unit of electricity after taking into account the expense of manufacture and installation over the calculated life expectancy of the panels as well as the amount of time they are obscured by adverse weather?

  11. It’s not “naysaying”. It’s provable via basic analysis of physics and chemistry that this cannot generate sufficient energy to cover the offset of the energy required to product the panels within the estimated lifetime of the panel. In addition to failing to recover energy costs to produce, it is less economically feasible to pave with these than regular asphalt.

    I bet these are the same people that believe in that whole “air plastic” nonsense.

  12. Science “disproved” flight at one point. Experiments,especially failed ones, are how we learn.

  13. and they told the Wright brothers that human flight was impossible. why are you raining on the parade of people who have more vision than you do? without people like the Brusaws there would never be any technological advances.

  14. These naysayers are all beating up on this technology because of the high cost of developing it at the research and development level. This criticism is farce.

    R&D is always costly. It’s a common stage of R&D to have cost-intensive research to refine a technology and either move it to market, or develop national specs so US and State DOTs can implement it in public ROWs. Private sector and public sector investors both assume that once a technology is proven and scaled-up, infrastructure and subsidy will bring costs down for the entire market, allowing reasonable price points for the technology. That’s probably why FHWA and DOT have decided to invest in it–they see the potential benefit so dramatically outweighs the R&D costs.

    Folks who are married to petroleum, and its multitude of uses in the paving and maintenance process, are going to fight this technology’s implementation. Cuts into huge profits and reduces their market by providing an alternative.

  15. (continued from above)

    Diandre Cole: I have no issue with R&D on this. I do, however, think that more money should be going into encouraging rooftop solar, research on other solutions to utilization of roadway space for power, and in the near future, comparative studies of this and those other solutions. And as stated before, I have no love of petroleum.

    Terry: See my comment on naysayers above. There have also been plenty of things that naysayers were right about, and plenty of things that many people believed would be feasible that just aren’t. Your comment provides no real insight on the technology at hand. I’ve provided reasons at the top of this comment for why I think that there are better solutions (that are also feasible) than this technology to the problem of utilizing road space for solar power generation. And skepticism is how technology is refined. This should be experimented with, absolutely, but comparative studies must take place in the coming years to show if this is the most practical solution. I’m concerned that if everyone is just excited about it and questioning its optimality isn’t taken seriously that it will be rolled out all over the place in lieu of a better solution. Maybe this is the best solution. We don’t know yet, but I have my doubts, for the reasons listed at the top.

    If you read all of this, thanks. If I’ve missed something in my reasoning, please let me know. I’m open to changing my mind if someone gives reasons that this technology is better than others that are good enough to outweigh those I’ve given.

  16. It’s not a matter of naysayers or R&D. It is simple math. The math doesn’t add up, it doesn’t matter how much R&D you put in it. Other installations of solar roadways proved that it is a waste of money. See EEVblog #743 – Solar Roadways Test Results (

  17. Here’s the problem with solar roads: If you want to produce solar power along your roadways, just put solar panels beside the road. Panels beside the road:

    – Are less expensive because the panels don’t have to be built to handle cars and (especially) trucks.
    – Aren’t covered by traffic.
    – Can use sun tracking to improve efficiency.
    – Are easier to maintain because you don’t have to shut down the road to work on them.

    As for parking lots, the coverage problem gets much worse. A likely more efficient solution: build the panels over the lot. As well, I would like to see more money going to rooftop solar. It avoids a lot of the problems that come with dealing with roads. Road space should be utilized, but we really need to be making use of our roofs. Unfortunately, roof solar just doesn’t seem to be as exciting to people, which is a shame.

    Now, there is some validity to this as an experiment. Perhaps I’m wrong; perhaps this is the best solution. I’m up for that being the case. But if this is an experiment, then I want to see comparative studies between this solution and others (beside the road, over the road, etc.) in the coming years. I hope that Solar Roadways realizes that providing honest data & analysis over time is a good way to show the efficacy of your product (assuming, of course, that it is effective).

    Now, in response to some of the other commenters:

    Michael Henry: The University of South Carolina provides my paycheck. I work on the electrical and computer engineering side of robotics. I have no relation to the fossil fuel industry, and I personally support transitions to more renewable energy sources.

    Jeremt: Thanks for pointing out that experiments are important. Science isn’t an entity. It’s a collection of people whose job is informed scientific skepticism. And plenty of scientists, inventors, and engineers who studied fluid dynamics or early aeronautics were confident in the possibility of human flight (see, for example, the Royal Aeronautical Society).

    Sally: Please see above. As well, look into George Cayley and take a look at information on early flying machines in the 19th century. The Wright brothers stood on the shoulders of many who came before them. And yes, some people doubted the possibility of human flight. There are naysayers for everything. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are wrong. Sometimes they are informed, sometimes they are not. Sometimes informed people are wrong. Sometimes uninformed people happen to be right. That’s the way the world works. I’ve provided reasons that I think this won’t work. I’m open to the idea that I’m wrong. I would just need evidence (comparative study over years) that I hope comes.

    (continued below)

  18. Where exactly is this? Route 66 does not go through Kansas City.

  19. Those worried about plows and ice and snow blocking energy production… An article (possibly related to the developers’ crowd funding campaign, I don’t remember) I read about the panels a few months ago mentioned self-defrosting to keep ice and snow off without plows.

  20. I agree with the need for, and look forward to seeing, further studies and details about feasibility.
    I tend to think that that’s rather the point to there being grants to study freeze thaw cycles, sheer characteristics etc. It’s not like this is a sixth grade school project. I am intrigued by aspects of the project, from the huge recyclability of the glass tiles (how easy are they to replace when “repaving” is required?) to the idea of having self thawing roadways that could be designed to interact with next generation vehicles on many levels.
    It’s also worth keeping in mind the flexibility of reconfiguring roads just by sending signals. Traffic directions and warnings can be dynamic. Centralizing right of way access for power, telecommunications etc could be hugely beneficial in its own way.
    The “solar” part of solar roadways is not the be all end all of the concept, it’s also about developing smart road solutions that accomplish multiple things at once.
    So let’s see more varied and practical implementations and see how the concepts actually perform in the real world. :-)

  21. When the amount of energy which comes from the sun is not sufficient to melt the snow in a particular area then the snow accumulates. If there is not enough energy to melt the snow directly (i.e. it melts by virtue of being in direct sunlight) then there is not enough energy to melt that same amount of snow with the same amount of sunlight being changed into electricity and then from electricity into heat. The most efficient way of converting sunlight into heat is by having a black surface–like the surface of many roads (hence the expression “blacktop”.) Replacing blacktop with a solar cell with an integral heater will greatly reduce the efficiency of turning sunlight into heat for the purpose of melting snow.

    You don’t have to work for an oil company to be able to do elementary physics.

  22. They all laughed at Christopher Columbus
    When he said the world was round
    They all laughed when Edison recorded sound
    They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother
    When they said that man could fly
    They told Marconi, wireless was a phony, it’s the same old cry

    – Ira Gershwin

  23. I get the potentially valid points on concerns like wear and producing less electricity than expected. The ones I’m not so happy with are the economic ones, because it seems a little out of whack to be saying an emerging technology needs to be able to roll out in such a fashion as to make financial support from state or government to develop and deploy the new tech? If we set that as some sort of standard than we really screw ourselves over. Solar Roadway’s panels have applications far beyond roadways and perhaps if the test run on this stretch can inform their ongoing development regimen, either fix the areas of concern discovered or alter the product and therefor function for other tasks. People’s driveways and walkways, sidewalks and medians, for variants to pave basketball or tennis courts. Don’t ridicule the concept because of a limited number of valid concerns, I’m sure we have far more to learn from the research and development ongoing in this project, than would be incapable of justifying the seemingly modest amounts of money already invested or would be required.

  24. I think some of you folks out to check this out…

  25. I live in the Phoenix, AZ area. We have plenty of sun and not enough solar collectors. I’m not a scientist or engineer. This concept is worth pursuing differently in different climates. At 115-120 degrees F in June in Phoenix, it may actually be too hot for the roadways. We’re seeing more parking lot shade structures with solar panels on top. Makes perfect sense as it protects our cars while generating electricity.

  26. No mention on the rarity of the chemical components required to make photovoltaic cells either, environmentally friendly renewable energy?!

  27. They’re doing it in France.

  28. All the Naysayer’s should visit Rotterdam. Where the have had this Technology for the last few years.
    Not to mention completely self sustaining Wind Turbine, PV Solar, Water Turbines for the last 2 Decades.
    They are So Good at Renewable Technology. That the Germans ask them for advice. And the UAE’s Madar City is being built in conjunction with Dutch engineers.
    But What do they know about it…..Betchya youse muriKKKan’s are right. Youse is Riiiiight on Climate Change too. Right up there with JFK & Moon Landing Conspiracies.

  29. It seems like the LED lane markers would be better off as physical lane markers instead. Also, it might be better to put the tiles on the sides of roadways or centers, or raised above overpasses, where they don’t receive much physical wear and tear.

  30. A thorough, post-installation debunking of this concept can be found at:

    and a breakdown of the MATERIAL COSTS of this can be found at:
    $205 MILLION PER MILE, unassembled, uninstalled, material costs.

  31. A naysayer with the data beats the dreamer without it.

  32. Interesting seeing all the people who’s main argument is that naysayers have been wrong before citing all the innovations that proved them wrong yet leave out all the things naysayers said were not viable and turned out to not be viable, that naysayers have been been wrong before is not an argument at all.

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