The first public roadway in the United States to receive the solar treatment will be a stretch of Route 66 right here in Missouri.
The idea is to pave walkways (and eventually roads) with solar panels in hexagonal shapes capable of turning the sun’s rays into clean, renewable energy.
A walking path at one of the historic highway’s welcome centers, located in Conway, about 45 minutes east of Springfield, will be outfitted with solar panels to power the nearby center.
The solar panels use technology developed by Idaho-based Solar Roadways, which raised $2.2 million in 2014 through a crowd-funding website. Founders Julie and Scott Bursaw dreamt of creating a roadway that generates clean renewable energy. Missouri’s deployment of their product will be the first time someone other than the company has installed the technology.
“If in fact their product is successful, and if you can place it as some point in the future onto — let’s say many of our roadways — it could be the first roadway that pays for itself,” says Missouri Department of Transportation’s Assistant District Engineer Tom Blair.
Blair couldn’t say exactly how long the solar-paneled pathway will be, or how much it will cost.
The solar path is part of Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDoT) Road to Tomorrow project, a project that the agency is using to explore ways to create revenue streams that can fund “the roads of tomorrow.”
Road to Tomorrow’s solar roadway project is just one section of the five-part project. They include:
Internet of Things, which could allow devices and vehicles to connect using electronic sensors, aiding smart traffic control, safety and road assistance.
Smart Pavement, which could provide digital, communication and information services to MoDOT, motor carriers and other commercial fleet operators and private drivers on a subscription basis to enable sustainable, self-funded infrastructure assets for public owners.
Truck Platooning, basically a wireless connection between commercial trucks that would allow for a second truck to follow at a close distance for better fuel economy and enhanced safety.
Blair says the Internet of Things initiative is something no Department of Transportation has ever done before, and is looking for input on the project.
MoDot will be launching its own crowdfunding project to help fund the new solar roadway. Blair says the department hopes to have the new roadway in place before the end of the year.