Climate Action

Historic Route 66 to get US first solar roadway

US Route 66 highway will receive the first test for solar roadway panels in the country

  • 30 June 2016
  • William Brittlebank

The historic US Route 66 highway will receive the first test for solar roadway panels in the country.

According to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) announcement, the solar panels will be installed at a rest stop of Route 66, as a part of the project “Road to Tomorrow Initiative”.

Laurel McKean, MoDot assistant district engineer, said that they used the concept of the historic Route 66 to demonstrate the potential of history to create the future.

Solar Roadways, founded by Scott and Julie Brusaw in Idaho, has been working on the development of the panels for years already and the project had attracted attention in 2014 when the couple advertised it with their video “Solar FREAKIN’ roadways”.

The first test will consist in a 12-by-20 foot patch of solar panels on a sidewalk near the road.

McKean said: “This is kind of the first phase, and we hope in the future that we then can move it out into maybe the parking lot and then maybe into a travel area.”

The panels will generate power but they also heat and prevent snow and ice to accumulate on them, which will be a great asset if the project goes on to a whole road.

McKean added: “What’s so appealing from the revenue side is yeah, if we don’t have to treat roads or sidewalks or pavement anymore, that’s less material, less chloride, less things that go into the environment and also the aspect of getting energy.”

Tom Blair, leader of the department’s Road to Tomorrow Initiative, told The Kansas City Star said: “We expect them to be in place, I’m hoping, by the end of this year, maybe before snow flies.”

The project has beneficiated from its own crowdfunding campaign which generated $2.2 million; it also signed three funding contracts with the US Department of Transportation, and received a grant from the Idaho Department of Commerce to set up the demonstration project within the limits of Sandpoint, the couple’s hometown.

The panels have several advantages including LED lights for the lines and signage which will not require paint and improve driving during the night, and repairs are made easier by the modular panels that can be replaced quickly.

The concept of solar road is also being developed in the Netherlands since November 2014 with SolaRoad, and the French government plans as well to install 1,000 km of solar roads during the next five years –supplying power to millions of people.

Ségolène Royal, France’s minister of ecology and energy, said: “The maximum effect of the program, if successful, could be to furnish 5 million people with electricity, or about 8 percent of the French population.”