Nation’s First Solar Roadway Coming to Historic Route 66

Lorraine Chow | June 24, 2016

Missouri’s Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has announced plans to install solar panels at a rest stop alongside the iconic Route 66 as part of the department’s “Road to Tomorrow Initiative.”

The Historic Route 66 welcome center in Conway, Missouri will receive the nation’s first solar roadway panels on a public right of way.

The panels were developed by Solar Roadways, an Idaho-based startup founded by Scott and Julie Brusaw.

MoDot will first test out a 12-by-20 foot patch of panels on a sidewalk leading to the rest stop’s main entrance.

“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 said.

Not only will the panels help generate power for the rest stop, the panels’ heating elements will prevent snow and ice accumulation.

Besides creating renewable electricity, the panels feature LED lights to create lines and signage without paint and to improve nighttime driving. Since the hexagonal panels are modular, it allows for easy repairs since a broken panel can just be swapped with a new one.

The Solar Roadways program is one of MoDOT’s several pilot schemes to promote transportation technology in the state. Other schemes include smart pavement, smart traffic control and truck platooning, which connects commercial trucks via wireless technology and thus allow trucks to follow at a close distance for better fuel economy and enhanced safety.

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 kms (621 miles) of its roads with solar panels in the next five years, which will supply power to millions of people.

 

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