A town in Idaho has installed solar panel road tiles that could revolutionize the renewable energy industry. Solar Roadways, a company based in Sandpoint, has gifted its local town with its first limited test run of panels to power facilities in the city center. The company envisions a future where whole roads are covered in these panels, providing road markings with a series of LED lights, melting snow, and providing a clean source of energy.
In the Jeff Jones town square on Monday, residents were treated to the unveiling of 150 square feet of solar panels, totaling 30 Solar Roadways SR3 units. The square does not receive car traffic, but residents will be able to walk and cycle across the new installation. The Sandpoint local authorities claim they intend to keep the panels updated with the latest developments.
Beyond the Jeff Jones installation, Solar Roadways lists a number of planned future Sandpoint-based pilot projects on its Indiegogo page. These include an Amtrak station platform, the airport parking areas, and the city sidewalks. Although most publicity has been focused around its potential use on highways, it’s clear Solar Roadways is thinking beyond the roadways to other places solar tiles could be useful.
The Jeff Jones installation may be small, but it points to a future where panels like these are commonplace. In February, the French government announced plans to fit 630 miles of road with similar panels, generating enough energy for eight percent of the population within five years.
These panels can’t come soon enough. Last week, it was revealed that the Earth’s atmosphere has exceeded the 400 ppm carbon dioxide concentration landmark to the point where we may never see normal levels again in our lifetime. Solar panel roads may not reverse the cataclysmic impact of humanity on the atmosphere, but hey, it’s a start.