The first working solar car park has been unveiled, which the manufacturers hope will help to pave the way for future transport links.
The car park, in Idaho, the US, has been built by Solar Roadways which has been working on the technology for years. In an announcement today, it has revealed the 12 x 36 foot parking lot located outside the company’s engineering lab.
It is fully functional and made up of individual panels which include solar cells, LEDs, heating elements and a textured glass surface.
It’s hoped the panels could replace traditional road surfaces and help to collect renewable energy that can be used to power our homes and buildings.
The development of the solar roads has been underway since 2009 and in part has been funded by the Federal Highway Administration. This shows the US government’s attitude that roadways can be harnessed to help improve the environment.
Previously on its website Solar Roadways has said proving solar roadways will ensure everyone has power and there would be no no more need to burn coal – which contributes to 50% of greenhouse gases produced.
The roadways are made up of three different layers which all provide different advantages and functions to the overall roadway.
The road surface layer is weatherproof, made of reinforced glass, and allows sunlight to pass through to the layers below.
The electronics layer contains a heating element – which could be used to melt snow and ice on the roads- the solar cells are also included in this layer and an on-board microprocessor controls lighting and communications.
On the bottom of each individual tile is the base plate layer, which enables the road to distribute the power collected. It is also waterproof to protect the electronics layer above it.
Details of the amount of electricity produced by the parking lot have not been released yet, but the makers have said it is more than they expected. It also said the strength of the glass was tested in a civil engineering lab.
The LEDs inside the road can be programmed to light up in patterns. If adopted in a widespread manner this could show drivers when to slow down and display road markings and warnings.
In the released prototype the solar cells only cover 69% of the car park’s surface but the company says when in production it will cover the entirety of the surface.
The next steps for the company, and the technology, will be the most crucial as a deal with a major manufacturer will be essential for the mass production and implementation across cities.
Solar Roadways, writing on its Facebook page, said: “We have lots of potential customers that we are talking to, but next step is to acquire the funding to gear up for manufacturing. We need to hire a team, streamline the process etc.”
Images and video courtesy of Solar Roadways