As part of Missouri’s ‘Road to Tomorrow’ initiative the American state will be the first to install solar power paving on a public right of way, as the Missouri Department of Transport (MoDOT) announces a rest stop on the iconic Route 66 as the destination for the high-tech panels. The futuristic solar panels (pictured above) were created by Idaho-based startup Solar Roadways which doubled its crowd-funding target to raise a massive USD $2.2 million to develop them, back in 2014. “[P]art of why we picked this location is because of the historic Route 66 concept,” Laurel McKean, MoDOT assistant district engineer, told KY3. “You know, here’s one of the main roadways that’s iconic for the United States, and being able to use the history to create potentially the future.”
MoDOT plans to introduce Solar Roadways with an initial 12 x 20 foot (3.6 x 6 meter) strip leading up to The Historic Route 66 Welcome Center in Conway. “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,” McKean explains. The unique design of Solar Roadways means that the MoDOT will not only be generating clean electricity by installing them, but saving money on treating the road for ice and snow, as the panels generate heat.
Further, the Solar Roadways panels integrate programmable LED lights to create lines and signage without paint or poles, and can improve nighttime visibility. Being modular is also a huge plus, making for simple repairs as broken panels can be simply replaced by a new one. “It’s only appropriate that the re-birth of the nation’s interstate system begin at its birthplace,” says Stephen Miller, vice-chairman of Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.
“We expect them to be in place, I’m hoping, by the end of this year, maybe before snow flies,” Tom Blair, leader of the department’s Road to Tomorrow Initiative, told The Kansas City Star, adding that his office will also be setting up its own crowd-funding scheme to engage the public and expand the project. According to EcoWatch.com, “Missouri is not the only one wanting to ride on the sun. SolaRoad has been in operation in the Netherlands since November 2014, and has been generating more power than expected. The French government also plans to pave 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of its roads with solar panels in the next five years, which will supply power to millions of people.”