Solar Powered Roads: How to Outsmart the Storm
Every year the United States is hammered with multiple feet of snow and each year we continually spend billions of dollars to clean up the mess. Yet there is a glimmer of hope to make our future winters a little bit safer and a lot more cost effective. Our future lies in solar powered roads that can melt the ice away along with our problems.
According to CNN, 53 year old electrical engineer Scott Brusaw says he has the solution. He has developed such an intriguing solar road idea that he has even grabbed the federal government's attention. During his interview with CNN, Brusaw described his hope for solar powered roads, saying "I'm looking out the window now at about a foot of snow, so if we can make it work here, we can make it work anywhere in the country. I'm hoping this spring we'll start laying the foundation for it right outside our building here."
Brusaw wants to simply convert all our roads to solar panels made out of very hard glass that people could still use for transportation but it would now also serve a secondary purpose of melting snow. For Brusaw's innovative work he is receiving a $100,000 grant from the government to fund his project in hopes of changing the future.
Another pivotal idea comes from associate professor Rajib Mallick at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. According to CNN, Mallick's plan is to run under the pavement pipes filled with fluid that is resistant to freezing. The water would heat up from the sun hitting the asphalt and then melt the snow or ice when present. He also believes the excess hot liquid when not being used to melt a wintery mix could generate electricity for a developed town. And he is confident if we put this piping under much of America's roadways we would power much of America with this new renewable energy source.
Science Daily also supports this approach. Science Daily suggested that the "practical approach to harvesting solar energy from pavement is to embed water filled pipes beneath the asphalt and allow the sun to warm the water. The heated water could then be piped beneath bridge decks to melt accumulated ice on the surface and reduce the need for road salt. The water could also be piped to nearby buildings to satisfy heating or hot water needs, similar to geothermal heat pumps. It could even be converted to steam to turn a turbine in a small, traditional power plant".
Researchers around the world are working nonstop to develop this new type of technology but the hardest part is in the implementation. The lead researcher at the University of Rhode Island of a team examining methods of harvesting solar energy to melt ice, power streetlights, illuminate signs and heat buildings is Professor K. Wayne Lee. He was quoted in the Science Daily, explaining one of the biggest challenges: "This kind of advanced technology will take time to be accepted by the transportation industries." The technology is developing apace. The only thing holding us back from our defense against the next blizzard is funding and fear of the unknown.