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Future Tech: 

Bonkers ‘Solar Roadways’ plan smashes Indiegogo records


Is this the future for American roadways?

‘Solar Roadways’? You’re going to have to explain this one. 

Solar Roadways is the brainchild of Idaho couple Julie and Scott Brusaw, whose Indiegogo project smashed through its crowdfunding target this week – breaking Indiegogo records in the process.

The idea is to cover the nation’s roads in solar panels that will pay for themselves by generating electricity, with the couple claiming the scheme could produce more than three times the power the US currently uses. A nationwide system of Solar Roadways could also have other uses – such as melting ice and snow during the winter, or creating road lines and signage using LEDs.

The Brusaw’s hoped to raise only $1 million before 31 May, 2014, but have raised more than $1.5 million so far with a day still to go. The 36,000 people who donated set a new Indiegogo record, surpassing the 33,000 pledges that funded Nikola’s Tesla Museum

$1.5 million?! So this is actually happening?

Well, no – or at least not any time soon. Despite reaching their fundraising target with ease, The Verge notes that there is still a long list of obstacles standing in the Brusaw’s way. The couple may have raised $1.5 million through Indiegogo, but Science writer Aaron Saenz estimated that such a project would cost more like $56 trillion to complete when the idea was first mooted in 2010.

The couple has so far been vague about how exactly they plan to spend the money, despite the wealth of information on their website. It’s claimed that Solar Roadways can generate further revenue by displaying advertising on the road’s LEDs. If that fails, the Indiegogo page is also selling mugs, canvas tote bags and T-shirts.

Why so expensive?

The difference between regular solar panels and the kind needed for Solar Roadways is durability. The Brusaw’s panels are covered in high-tech glass so they can withstand the pressure of being trampled by heavy vehicles all day long – that includes tractors or a 250,000 tonne truck.

Unsurprisingly, this kind of technology doesn’t come cheap – and with the jury still out on the efficiency of solar power, convincing the US government to fund solar roadways will take some doing.

solar roadways

High-tech solar panels like these won’t come cheap

So…is it doomed?

At this stage Solar Roadways seem unlikely, but never rule out an underdog. The Brusaw’s have been working at this idea since 2010 and – thanks to their latest viral campaign – awareness has never been greater.

Whatever the critics say, Solar Roadways is a concept silly enough that people actually want to believe in it. For a renewable energy source, that’s half the battle – even if it would be easier and much, much cheaper to invest in good old fashioned rooftop panels.

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Forget the naysayers – Solar Roadways are the future!
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