Solar Roadways Blog: Sharing the Journey If you would like to receive each of our blogs automatically, you can sign up for the RSS feed here: If you are using Google Chrome, we reccomend using Feedly to subscribe to our feed!
With the Super Bowl just around the corner, we thought it would be a great time to paint a picture of how SR panels and Sports Stadiums could be a perfect match: <br/><br/>
You are so excited that you have tickets to watch your favorite NFL team play today. You approach the parking lot and see something new. The whole parking lot is glowing in your team’s colors! There are glass hexagons everywhere (which ironically match the hexagon graphics the NFL is now using for games on TV). The LED lighting helps you to spot empty parking spaces. You notice that there are smaller spaces for motorcycles, larger ones for trucks, and handicapped spots are appearing on the fly as they are needed. There’s a section for EVs with dynamic charging plates, so that EVs can charge while their owners watch the game. After you park, LED arrows show you which way to walk to get into the stadium, which makes it easy. You notice the traction on the panels, which keeps them from being slippery, no matter what the weather. As you walk, you see that some of the panels have the team’s logo etched in the center of the hexagon panel. As you get near the stadium, you notice what seems to be some VIP parking spaces with names on them. As you get to the covered areas inside, the hexagons change to high resolution (more LED intensive). Now the panels have names and faces of players, and stats about them and the team. <br/><br/>
As you get into the open-air stadium, you see that the entire interior of the stadium is also glowing from the same panels. The number of your row is illuminated in the aisle and even your seat number is illuminated beneath your seat. Those numbers disappear when the game starts. <br/><br/>
The first time your team scores, the panels flash with the team colors. When there is a touchdown, the word TOUCHDOWN scrolls up each staircase and disappears into the air above. The colors change and have various special effects throughout the game. When fans get excited and stomp their feet, the LEDs get brighter! And they even seem to “dance” in time with the music at half time. <br/><br/>
And while you might have been focusing on the cool/sexy look of it all, those panels are also generating clean energy from the sunshine that has always been there but is now helping to power the stadium. You may also have missed the Cable Corridors that are catching rain and treating the water on site. If you live in a snowy area, you will not miss the way the panels keep all walking and driving surfaces snow/ice free when the weather gets bad. Parking lots for tailgate parties could offer the same razzle dazzle use of the lights, including the interactive features inside if teams so choose. <br/><br/>
That’s just one vision of how sports stadiums all over the world can utilize Solar Roadways panels. In the scenario above, those high definition hexagons would not be solar (solar cells prevent the LEDs from being as close together as they would be otherwise) but that is fine for indoor areas. Using the same glass hexagons would provide continuity and the areas without sun would be a great place to use them. For stadiums which wanted energy storage, seats could be designed with a place for hidden battery storage. Each stadium would be able to use the panels as they desire to create a unique experience for their fans. <br/><br/>
Stadiums are ideal for solar collection since they are mostly empty and open to the sun’s rays most of the time. Some stadiums are making an effort to become more sustainable and many are making use of solar panels. The Philadelphia Eagles are a good example: http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com/community/gogreen.html <br/><br/>
Others NFL teams which are “going green” include: Redskins, 49ers, Jets, Seahawks, Patriots and Giants/Jets. The Atlanta Falcons are in the midst of building a brand new sustainable stadium. <br/><br/>
There are so many stadiums and arenas in the world that if all of them were powered by renewable energy, it would be invaluable for us all. According to Wikipedia, there are over 200 sports stadiums with a capacity of 30,000 or more in North America: <br/><br/>
That includes a variety of sports; college as well as professional teams. Closed stadiums and arenas would not be able to generate power in seating areas, but would still be able to make use of parking lots and walkways. Other countries are surpassing the U.S. in the greening of stadiums in such countries as Brazil, Taiwan, India, England, China, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, and Ireland. <br/><br/>
Cheering our favorite sports teams is infused with emotions, connections, and meaning. With Solar Roadways® panels, stadiums will be able to help the planet, create a stunning, interactive viewing experience for their fans and be positive role models of sustainability – all at the same time.
You may have noticed that we at Solar Roadways don’t comment on political posts. We decided early on that it was important for us to remain apolitical. The last thing we would want would be for SR to be “taken” by one party or another. Given the current political climate in which each party seems to feel compelled to attack whatever the other party likes… that would be terrible. <br/><br/>
We have to be ready to work with government officials of all political persuasions. We are working to make our entire planet a safer and greener place for all of hte inhabitants of earth... in every country. We are grateful to have supporters who share our vision and work to help in every corner of the planet. <br/><br/>
When the Obama Administration invited us to the White House for the first White House Maker’s Faire in 2014, we were proud to go. And we were even more proud when President Obama’s team chose to include Solar Roadways in his State of the Union Address the following year. <br/><br/>
We would have happily worked with Bernie or Hillary. (And maybe we’ll still get a chance to work with Bernie in his senate capacity).<br/><br/>
And we will be just as happy to work with President Elect Trump if he so requests. Many people like SR for divergent reasons. We hope there will be many things about Solar Roadways that he will love: perhaps our ability to modernize our infrastructure with easy to maintain modular panels which have the intelligence create the nation’s Smart Grid. If implemented on a grand scale, the clean energy produced would be more than enough to power all of America. If our new president is interested in helping companies which make electric vehicles, we hope he will love our ability to work with mutual induction companies to create dynamic charging of EVs on our nation’s highways. Maybe he will embrace the idea floated this year in so many news articles that perhaps the Mother Road, Route 66, should become America’s first solar highway. Perhaps he will realize that funding and implementing SR on a grand scale would create countless new jobs. It could be the New Deal of this century: we can move into a new age of clean energy and economic prosperity in one swoop. Perhaps President Trump will want to choose one inner city as a model and focus on putting the people to work there making and installing SR panels to improve the city, make it safe and clean and beautiful (and lit up like Tron).<br/><br/>
Since I handle of all of our social media, I am privileged to be able to read and respond to comments on our various fan pages. I’ve taken part in discussions where people discussed their affiliation with four different political parties and they agreed that what they all had in common was their belief in the Solar Roadways vision for the future. They may have come to their decision from different vantage points, but that’s just fine. We are reading about the deep pain so many are feeling right now in the aftermath of this election. If we can have even a tiny part in the healing and pulling our nation together, we’d be honored.<br/><br/>
There are so many potential applications for Solar Roadway® panels. The application of SR to airports is one which journalists haven’t focused on much to date, and it may turn out to be one of the most important of all. Airports are flat, unshaded and just waiting to turn the sunshine hitting them each day into energy. <br/><br/>
Very early in our journey, when we were still in the concept phase, we began to hear from private pilots about how Solar Roadway® panels at airports could improve safety and enhance their experience. <br/><br/>
In recent years, we’ve become frequent flyers as we travel for speaking engagements, meetings and conferences. Now we take advantage of each opportunity to photograph the tarmac and runways at airports. We think about how our technology might make airports safer, greener and more sustainable. <br/><br/>
The most obvious way that Solar Roadways can help airports is by generating clean energy on the vast open areas: parking lots, walkways, tarmac and maybe someday (with FAA certification) even runways. A search for the electricity needs of airports turned out to be amazingly difficult. There was a lot of focus on airports trying to lower costs but no data which we were confident enough with to share. We can probably all agree that it must be HUGE! Some airports are incorporating renewables. We’d love to increase the options by allowing more walking and driving surfaces to become solar collectors. <br/><br/>
We all hear about the thousands of travelers whose flights are delayed or cancelled due to winter storms. In spite of millions of dollars spent on the best snow removal equipment and personnel, some storms overcome airports’ snow removal capacity. As flights are delayed at one airport, it can cause a domino effect to flights at other airports. This article from Wired does a great job of painting a picture of what it takes to keep an airport free of snow and ice using traditional methods: <a href="https://www.wired.com/2015/03/takes-crazy-effort-clear-snow-airport-runways/" target="_blank">http://www.wired.com/2015/03/takes-crazy-effort-clear-snow-airport-runways/ </a> <br/><br/>
If we can obtain certification to install SR panels on airport tarmacs, those large swaths could just remain snow and ice free all of the time without human effort. An engineering upgrade we made when we went from SR2 to SR3 panels is that now the panels have the ability to sense the ambient temperature and turn heating elements on automatically as needed. <br/><br/>
We were surprised when we first experimented with our heating elements and found that, not only do the panels remain snow and ice free – they are also dry to the touch. Imagine how that could enhance airplane safety. <br/><br/>
It would certainly take extra electricity to run the embedded heating elements, but that would have to be compared to what airports spend on equipment and personnel and what they lose when flights are delayed or cancelled. We imagine it would be very valuable to keep customers safe and happy – both for airports and airlines. Compare that to this peek into the logistics of keeping Minneapolis St. Paul’s airport running in the winter: <a href="http://www.airportimprovement.com/article/minneapolis-st-paul-intl-offers-peek-inside-its-snow-removal-playbook" target="_blank">http://www.airportimprovement.com/article/minneapolis-st-paul-intl-offers-peek-inside-its-snow-removal-playbook </a> <br/><br/>
The LED lights (available in any color an airport would like) could be used for signage and lane markers in parking lots and tarmac alike. <br/><br/>
A runway made up of Solar Road Panels would offer numerous benefits to pilots. From the time they pull away from the terminal, a lighted arrow could lead them to their proper runway for takeoff. The same happens after touchdown: a lighted arrow can lead the pilot to the proper passenger terminal. Currently, the tower has to guide the plane all the way to the terminal. Allowing the tarmac to do this would free up the air traffic controller. <br/><br/>
The entire runway can be used as a “heads up display” for approaching pilots. Currently, pilots approaching small airports look for a windsock to provide basic information. Instead, wind speed and direction can be displayed on the runway with a directional arrow and “14mph”. We’re not pilots, but we’ve had many pilots give us data (usually in multiple acronyms!) that pilots would love to have while approaching a runway. If disaster strikes and radio communication has been lost for any reason, then the runway can act as a display for information: “LAND HERE FLIGHT 227”. <br/><br/>
Our research shows that our panels can withstand the weight of a 250,000 truck, so we are optimistic about getting approval for small planes to land and take off on our actual panels. We don’t know if we could design a panel that would be able to support the needs of large aircraft on actual runways – but we’d love to try. We would relish a grant from the FAA to allow us to work in that direction. Even if we can’t become certified for actual take offs and landings, there is still a whole lot of tarmac where planes move slowly. <br/><br/>
Our local small county airport, here in North Idaho has expressed an interest in becoming the first model airport, showcasing how SR’s features can do for airports, airlines, pilots and travelers. <br/><br/>
Well, the roll out of our first public installation did not go as we envisioned it. It proved to be a week of the lowest lows and the highest highs for us at Solar Roadways. We are still feeling badly about letting everyone down: The City of Sandpoint, whose officials have been nothing but wonderful to us, the citizens who have supported us, those of you who traveled to Sandpoint to see the unveiling and everyone watching from afar.
<br/><br/>First, we missed the Friday unveiling time due to the unexpectedly long time our laminating machine was taking with 30 panels inside for the first time. Then we disappointed you all again when we ran into problems on Saturday with the sand base and were not able to get all of the panels in by 1:00. We decided a “Sneak Preview” was the best option at that point. We had only some of the panels in and only 3 lit up. Fortunately, you all agreed with our choice at that juncture, when I posted about it later. And 20/20 hindsight confirmed that if we had tried to get all of the panels in before showing you – you all would have waited a very long time.
<br/><br/>But the worst thing of all, was having to explain that we had learned that two components of our lamination machine had malfunctioned during the process (we didn’t know until it was over) which caused erratically different conditions across the panels. Some had ruined solar cells, some had ruined LED lights and heating elements were disabled. Of course, we’ll replace all of the panels at our expense, and we are already ordering new materials.
<br/><br/>As we’ve been recovering, we’ve also been thinking about the current political season as it relates to this chapter in our journey. We are continually dismayed at the unwillingness of politicians to take responsibility for mistakes or to be honest and forthcoming. Even their surrogates tell us how the obvious mistake we see was really fine and wonderful, insulting our intelligence and leaving us shaking our heads.
<br/><br/>We want to do the opposite. Honesty has always been a core value for us. We value each of you who have supported us and we try to treat you as we like to be treated. We would want to know the whole story, so we offered to do an interview with our local paper, explaining exactly what went wrong.
<br/><br/>You can read the article now and then we’ll share a few more thoughts:
<br/><br/>There are two important lessons for us in this experience:
<br/><br/>1. We thought that we had to set a date so that the press and all of you could make it to Sandpoint to see the Unveiling Ceremony. When we set the date, we had plenty of cushion to get the panels ready. But we underestimated how long it would take to go over each panel exceedingly carefully to make sure it was perfect. Now we see that our naivety was at play as we’d never had an Unveiling Ceremony or done a Press Conference ever before. We know now that there is another option. Next time we’ll have a “soft opening”, making sure all is working properly and only then will we set dates for ceremonies. It’s ironic that what led to this error was our desire to please people; and in trying to please you all, we inadvertently let you down.
<br/><br/>2. Now that we’ve had some sleep and had time to reassess the whole experience, we see that we made a huge mistake in trusting that the lamination machine would be able to handle 30 panels all at once. We assessed only a slight risk and that was again probably colored by our desire to please everyone.
<br/><br/>The good news is we won’t make those mistakes again.
<br/><br/>More good news is that we’ve already learned some things from this pilot. Scott will be writing a blog about that soon.
<br/><br/>Meanwhile, we hope you all are enjoying the partially working panels in person or with the webcam. The naysayers are of course trying to “spin” a narrative that we are having problems in all areas, rather than everything stemming from a problem with one piece of equipment. We haven’t begun to show you what the panels can do. We just had time to very quickly throw up some LED patterns and they are on a low setting which is why it’s hard to see them on the webcam in the daytime. The naysayers are really having a field day with that one, but we’ll set things straight soon enough!
<br/><br/>You supporters have been so gracious and understanding that we have felt overwhelmed with gratitude. We weren’t sure if people realized that the whole point of pilot projects is to bring out any problems or glitches with the manufacturing process and the product so that needed improvements can be made prior to mass manufacturing.
<br/><br/>But so many in person and on social media conveyed just that in response to our “Bad News” post. Here’s a sampling:
<br/><br/>“This is the whole point of pilot projects. Find potential setbacks and delays on a small scale so they can be fixed before going big scale.”
<br/><br/>“No one said it would be easy to save the planet. Thanks for your hard work!”
<br/><br/>“You can't have a visionary and revolutionary product that could change the face of history without its own set of delays and issues. So...good news.”
<br/><br/>We always say that we have the best supporters in the world! That feeling of gratitude is still with us every day, combined with an anxious desire to get the replacement panels made and installed so we can show you how the installation is really supposed to be.
A few years ago, Scott and I were watching David Letterman. In a rare moment, Dave became serious. He began talking about how he had just bought an electric vehicle and was upset to learn that it might not help the planet as much as he had hoped it would. He (like many of us) was under the assumption that EVs eliminated any harm to the environment. But then he found out that when he charged his new car, he was still charging it with fossil fuels. He talked about how frustrated he was and wondered aloud how much he was really helping the planet?
Scott and I looked at each other and said, “Solar Roadways® can solve that problem!” We wished we had a way to contact Dave and let him know!
Perhaps the best way to explain is to go back briefly to the beginning of our journey: When we had the idea for Solar Roadways®, we quickly realized how many problems could be solved. One of the most important ramifications of SR adoption on a grand scale would be to help end our dependence on fossil fuels, and replace it with a model for true sustainability. We spent some time gathering data and doing calculations. You can read those numbers here, but for those that want a quick summary: If SR covered all of the roads, parking lots, driveways etc. in the U.S., we could produce more than 3 times the electricity we use, and eliminate about half of the greenhouse gas emissions.
If all of us switched from cars with internal combustion engines to electric vehicles (EVs), we could eliminate about another 25% of those emissions. So if we want to stop producing the greenhouse gases which are leading to Climate Change, transitioning to EVs is important.
In 2011, President Obama optimistically predicted that by 2015 there would be a million EVs on the road. But we didn’t make it. By all accounts, EV sales represent less than1% of the new car market shares in the U.S. Why is that transition moving so slowly?
Unplugged writes, “Today electric vehicles (EV) are having a hard time being accepted by the customer and diffusing in the market.” They point to is “range anxiety” as a major reason. EVs have to continually find a place to charge. EV batteries have to be charged often, and although chargers are becoming more commonplace, the charging process itself is time consuming and inconvenient.
But what if SR could help solve this range anxiety and enable charging with clean energy? What if EV owners could charge their EVs while they drive? And what if that energy came -not from fossil fuels, but from clean sunshine?
This year, we began talks with a consortium in Utah (<a href="http://select.usu.edu/">http://select.usu.edu/</a>) who are working on the technology for dynamic charging of EVs (charging while they drive). They tell us that if just interstates alone which account for 2% of roads offered this service, it would take care of 98% of the miles EVs travel.
But integrating such technology into a standard road would be difficult. Solar Roadways® panels create an electric road with the needed electricity and all of the cabling and connections to facilitate the implementation of this technology. Their mutual induction plates could be fitted right into a Solar Roadway®. To that end, we are looking for a shared grant to enable research and development of this collaboration. We’d like to create a shared demonstration at their ¼-mile track to show what the marriage of these two technologies would offer to the EV industry and of course… our fragile planet.
The first step for SR is to offer static charging with clean energy. That can be done on driveways, in parking lots etc. Already, we will have addressed Dave’s concern. But we want to do more. We envision a world where we all just hop into our EVs and take a road trip without worrying about charging - and without worrying about where the energy comes from.
So Solar Roadways + Dynamic EV charging = A Whole New Ballgame.
(And we still want to talk to Dave!)
We are just overjoyed and honored that the very first public Solar Roadways installation will be in our own hometown of Sandpoint, Idaho. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will be Friday, September 30 at 3:00 p.m. at Jeff Jones Square, in downtown Sandpoint. We will stay at the Square into the evening. We are so looking forward to talking to everyone who is able to make it.
Finally, there will be a public place for all interested people to see and walk on a Solar Roadways installation! It will also be monitored 24/7 on the city’s web cam after the unveiling. You will be able to watch it on Sandpoint’s website: <a href="http://www.sandpointonline.com/current/index.shtml">http://www.sandpointonline.com/current/index.shtml</a> or on ours: <a href="www.solarroadways.com">www.solarroadways.com</a>.
We are so grateful to the many people who helped us on our way:
• The over 50,000 donors who have helped us to raise over $2,270,000 on our Indiegogo Campaign: (<a href="igg.me/at/solarroadways">igg.me</a?), which enabled us to get to this point.
<br/>• Our fantastic employees and volunteers who work so hard.
<br/>• Idaho political leaders such as Senator Shawn Keogh and Senator Mike Crapo who have endorsed, helped, and supported us.
<br/>• Idaho Department of Commerce which funded much of this installation, as well at the Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency who pitched in with a grant.
<br/>• City of Sandpoint officials who have supported us and worked tirelessly to help bring this installation to life.
<br/>• Solar Roadies (our name for our supporters) in Sandpoint and around the world who cheer us on and brighten our days with words of encouragement.
You are all welcome to stop in to our headquarters at 721 Pine St. to say hello as well. We’re usually open Monday – Friday, often on the weekends as well. We’ve had visitors from all over the world. We have a souvenier shop with SR t shirts, bumper stickers etc. in our lobby (all sales go to our R & D to help move the project forward), and many people like to chat and have pictures taken with us.
We will hold a joint press conference with City of Sandpoint officials (must have a press badge to attend) prior to the event at 1:00 p.m. at Columbia Bank. We will also make ourselves available to the press for one week after the event. We’ve been turning down interviews for a long time in order to focus on engineering. Now we’ll be happy to take a week to devote ourselves to answering questions.
The fall color is just beginning and should be in full glory by the 30th. Hotels may book up, so reserve a room quickly for the best availability. Sandpoint has many terrific hotels and there are more in nearby Sagle and Ponderay: <a href="http://www.sandpoint-idaho-hotels-lodging.com">http://www.sandpoint-idaho-hotels-lodging.com/</a>. Camping opportunities abound too: <a href="http://www.sandpointonline.com/rec/camp.html">http://www.sandpointonline.com/rec/camp.html</a>
Sandpoint is home to our gorgeous Panida Theater, which opened in 1927. They just happen to be showing the Manhattan Short Film during the weekend following the event: <a href="http://www.panida.org/event/manhattan-short-film-festival-2-2016-10-01/">http://www.panida.org/event/manhattan-short-film-festival-2-2016-10-01/</a>
Anyone planning a trip to Sandpoint for the unveiling or at any point can find more information about things to do in the area here: <a href="http://www.sandpointonline.com/current/index.shtml">http://www.sandpointonline.com/current/index.shtml</a>
The closest commercial airport is in Spokane, Washington, about 90 minutes away. Amtrak also has a station in Sandpoint and many people come to see us via the train.
There are many reasons it makes us so happy to have the first installation in Sandpoint. First, it’s just an amazing feeling to feel the acceptance and support right where we live. We love to meet our supporters. We’ll be here to meet with visitors, not just the first week, but most weeks (except when we are traveling to install or for speaking engagements elsewhere).
Having the first installation so close makes monitoring and maintaining the first installation so much easier when we can drive there in a couple of minutes. We can even walk. If something goes wrong we can be there in a flash to take care of it.
Sandpoint is a lovely, pristine, small community not far from the Canadian border. It’s truly a four season resort, with a 43 mile long lake, skiing and just relaxing into nature. We feel like we live in four different places as each season is so completely different. Beauty of nature abounds, whichever way your gaze settles. Animals are everywhere. Scott and I counted 49 deer on the way home one evening recently. This summer, we’ve had to slow down for a family of raccoons, a family of wild turkeys, coyote and elk.
If you are not able to make it to this event, perhaps you will come at a later time to see it. Winter is a magical time in Sandpoint, especially for skiers and snowboarders who appreciate our ski resort: http://www.schweitzer.com/. We know from experience with our first prototype on our own property, how beautiful the panels look in wintertime. It’s amazing to see snow around the panels, but the panels themselves remain snow free and even dry to the touch!
If you have more questions about an upcoming trip, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope to see many of you soon!
The time is right for us to add a blog to our other information offerings: website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We love connecting with you through each of those forums. A blog will offer us a chance to go deeper into topics and convey thoughts, feelings and stories with you. We love that so many people from every corner of the earth have been sharing this journey with us.
We are about to embark on a new phase in our journey: it’s almost time to install our first public pilot installation. Our Indiegogo campaign in 2014 left us amazed and overflowing with gratitude. We broke the record on Indiegogo for the most donors: over 48,000 from 165 different countries. We took a solemn vow to use the money wisely and fulfill our campaign promises. We bought a building, equipment, hired employees and worked diligently to improve our product and become ready for public installations.
We worried that we might lose support during this time when we have pulled inward to focus on engineering. We stopped accepting most press invitations and so had far fewer exciting articles to post or news to share. Most of you patiently accepted this part of the journey and sent us notes of encouragement, both public and private. If you ever wonder if that matters… it does. It’s helped keep us energized as we’ve worked on through exhaustion.
Now it’s time for us to move back out into the world and show you what you’ve helped us to accomplish. Our first public installation will be in our hometown of Sandpoint, Idaho at the end of September of 2016 at Jeff Jones Square. The prep work is done there, and we are working with the City of Sandpoint to coordinate the best date for the ribbon cutting ceremony – we’ll have that for you shortly. We’re overjoyed that so many of you tell us you are planning to come and see it with your own eyes! We’ll no doubt see many of you at Jeff Jones Square. If not, we hope you’ll stop by our headquarters so we can meet and thank you in person.
We feel like we are about to crawl out of a chrysalis, just like the butterfly who emerges shakily unsure of her wings. We’re anticipating some unforeseen glitches as we begin our first “real world” testing. Engineering lives by Murphy’s Law! But it’s good - we need to know everything that needs perfecting as we take further steps toward that ultimate of goals: the fast line of a highway.
We’ll continue to post on social media, our website, and here. We’ll be blogging separately as well as together. Other bloggers will be employees, volunteers, and guest bloggers. We’ve got a long list of topics we want to talk with you about, so follow along with us as we go.
Thanks for sharing the journey, <br/><br/>
Scott and Julie Brusaw<br/><br/>