Over the years, there has been talk about making solar roads, but never before has the Department of Energy been so confident in the idea as they appear to be now. The DOE has even awarded a $100,000 contract to the Solar Roadway company, which will allow them to build the "first ever Solar Road panel."
The panels, which are 12 x 12 feet could be embedded into roads and serve a number of purposes. When shined upon, they would generate clean electricity. They also contain LED lights which could alert drivers to changes in road conditions, accidents ahead and even work as travel lines. Embedded heated elements could potentially prevent snow and ice build-up on roads. The panels are made from solar cells and glass and are meant to be an alternative to petroleum-based asphalt.
While each panel costs about $7,000 to make, a single four-lane, one mile road of Solar Panels could provide enough power to take up to 500 homes off-grid. The company's founder, Scott Brusaw, says that if the entire United States interstate highway system was covered in these panels, it could fulfill the country's energy needs and create an “intelligent highway that will double as a secure, intelligent, decentralized, self-healing power grid which will enable a gradual weaning from fossil fuels.”