During the course of the recent FDL Book Salon for The Doomsday Machine: The High Price of Nuclear Energy, the World’s Most Dangerous Fuel, I was reminded to check on the status of Scott and Julie Brusaw’s Solar Roadways project. And it looks like things are going very well indeed:

Imagine you are behind the wheel of your big rig driving on those 440 panels per mile of glass road. There are a number of questions that come to mind, not the least of which is whether this glass road can withstand the weight of the loaded rig. Remember, though, this isn’t your typical window-pane glass. There are varying types of glass, from thin and flexible to bulletproof. “There are a lot of things you can do with glass,” says Scott. “Our goal is for our panels to withstand 250,000 pounds and our glass guy estimates that a 3/4-inch sheet will hold 160,000 pounds.” The glass is a tempered treated glass that withstands cracking and chipping.

At an advanced loading facility, a giant truck tire with weights on top of it was used to simulate a truck driving across the panels. “The hardness of the glass falls between steel and stainless steel and truck tires wear out well before the surface of glass,” says Scott.

Another common question is related to traction. The glass being developed for this project is a textured glass designed to prevent slippage. “This does diminish the solar efficiency, but we are looking at how to make a prism pattern work so that when light comes in it will bend it down and make it more efficient.”

Another question that comes to mind is related to natural disasters. How do the panels hold up in floods, earthquakes and other such occurrences? With flooding, the panels are hermetically sealed, so they should remain waterproof. “They won’t be destroyed or short out,” says Scott. And, they are anchored well enough that they won’t move. During an earthquake, the roadway would likely see damage similar to that of any highway. But power would not be lost throughout the highway system – only the damaged panels would stop producing. Each panel generates power essentially independently of the others.

One reason I really like this project is that it doesn’t require turning virgin or arable land into energy farms. Instead, it redesigns roadways and other asphalted surfaces so that they provide energy and other services in addition to facilitating wheeled-vehicle traffic. We could become energy-independent without tearing up a single additional acre.

Wish the Brusaws good luck, folks. This could be what saves us all.