SANDPOINT, Idaho – On Friday, the City of Sandpoint will unveil the first-ever public demonstration of Solar Roadways.
It is a company that aims to turn our dependence on oil toward the sun.
Sandpoint, Idaho, is a natural beauty. That is one of the reasons visitors are drawn here.
And it is a nod to nature drawing planet-wide attention to this plain, metal building.
“I talk to people from all over the world and they’re just coming here just to see what we’re up to,” said Alyssa Delbridge, the science director at Solar Roadways.
What they are up to over at Solar Roadways is a plan so big – they intend to eventually take the world’s dependence on oil and shift it to the sun.
“No more fossil fuels,” said Scott Brusaw.
They would do it using unique solar panels they invented, and are now manufacturing in Sandpoint.
“We broke a lot of glass experimenting with that,” Brusaw said.
Most of the machines they are using are prototypes because nobody has ever needed machines to make solar roads before.
“Keep in mind the machines we’re buying are not meant to do what we’re doing with them,” Brusaw said. “Nobody’s ever sandwiched circuitry between two plates of glass before.”
The brains of the outfit include LED lights that would eliminate the need to paint lines on the roads – they could simply be configured via a computer.
After years of trial and error, these glass panels now have the strength to support semis.
“We back it and if you can feel the surface there is a microtexture and macrotexture,” Brusaw said.
That is so the vehicles can stop.
“And we’ve had the traction tested to stop vehicles going 80 miles per hour on a wet surface,” he said.
Brusaw said that is equivalent to asphalt and concrete.
“If these are on your driveway, they’re bolted together. They can weigh 70 pounds each, they’re not going anywhere,” he said. “A tornado or hurricane can pass right over the top of them.”
Asphalt is inert, so Brusaw wants to cover all those kinds of surfaces – sidewalks, parking lots, residential roads and highways -- all with energy-producing solar panels.
“We’ve got a little over 28,000 square miles of paved surfaces in the lower 48 states,” he said. “If we covered all those surfaces we’d produce three times more energy than we use.”
Is that an unrealistic goal?
Well, when we first talked to Scott Brusaw in 2009 it was just a mega-sized dream for he and his wife Julie.
“It was funny because in the beginning when it was just an idea half the people thought we were crazy and half the people thought we were geniuses – which makes sense.”
As we followed them over the years – they gained the support of grants from the Federal Highway Administration and a massive Indiegogo campaign that smashed records. They pulled in more than $2.2 million and garnered donations from 165 countries across the world.
“That’s a very humbling thought,” Brusaw said. “People all over the world opening up their wallets and saying we want to make this happen.”
KREM 2 News was there as they unveiled their first prototype inside their home garage in 2011.
In 2014, we walked along their first installation outside their home. These days, they are making solar panels destined for their first ever public installation.
The city of Sandpoint chose Jeff Jones Square – in the center of town – as the spot for the Solar Roadways first public pilot project. The first panels will be laid down so the public can watch how they light up to create lines for roads, parking lots, and more.
They’ll produce power for nearby restrooms and a fountain and also contain a heating element to stay above freezing – negating the need for snow plows.
“No matter how much snow we get this will all be clear, the LED’s will still be shining – it will still be producing energy,” Brusaw said.
“It’s very exciting,” Delbridge added.
Brusaw knows people across the planet will be watching, especially with a webcam keeping a 24-hour eye on the Sandpoint installation.
“It’s both very exciting and sort of terrifying at the same time because the whole world is watching.”
The world will watch a curious, new road unfold; and the Brusaw’s believe the road ahead is bright.
City leaders said they will activate the webcam at sandpointidaho.gov.