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The SR3 testing at Jeff Jones Square in Sandpoint and at Marquette University in Milwaukee has been completed. We are grateful to the city of Sandpoint and all residents and visitors who served as our testers on this pilot project. This “real life test” gave us the information we needed to make important improvements to the design for SR4. We’ll share what we’ve learned, along with some insight into the array of civil engineering tests performed at Marquette. <br><br>
The biggest challenge that we’ve found has been the manufacturing process. Each individual part worked fine, but putting everything together and subjecting them to the manufacturing process created some problems and a very challenging learning curve.<br><br>
There are three fundamental features of the Solar Road Panels: the LED functionality, surface heating, and solar harvesting. Here’s what we’ve learned about each from the Sandpoint pilot project:<br><br>
SR3 has an array of LEDs, including red, green, blue, white, and yellow. Other colors and shades can be created by mixing the standard colors – we created a few extras for SR3 and will be working with more colors with SR4. These are individual high brightness LEDs designed for outdoor use. They worked great in all preliminary testing. We could turn them up so bright that they could actually hurt your eyes outside on a very sunny day. During SR3 testing, we worked to determine the optimal brightness levels for the LEDs in different situations. Now they automatically adjust themselves to the ambient light and we are pleased with how that is working. <br><br>
The heavy vacuum of the lamination process is a very harsh environment for small electronics. The tiny LEDs were being damaged during this process. We experimented with many types of clear epoxies to protect them from the lamination process. We eventually found one that could handle the job and began producing panels. <br><br>
When we initially installed the 30 panels at Jeff Jones Square, we programmed them to rotate through a series of patterns. It resembled a moving dance floor and the kids loved it. Later, we began to create some static images such as this earth design:<br><br>
<center><img src="/images/Blog/SR Earth - small.jpg" style="max-width:50%" alt="Earth Image at Jeff Jones Square" /></center>
We left this up for 2-3 weeks, when we noticed something unusual: the blue LEDs began to fade (lower their intensity). Experimenting with other patterns, we noticed the same thing happening with the white and yellow LEDs. The red and green LEDs were not affected. This was confusing and frustrating, and we could not continue manufacturing panels until this was resolved.<br><br>
After many conversations with the LED manufacturer, we learned that the blue, yellow, and white LEDs were made differently than the green and red LEDs. Together, after much testing, we came to the conclusion that the protective epoxy was having a chemical reaction with the LEDs and the sun was the catalyst. <br><br>
This has been corrected for the SR4 design so that protective epoxies are no longer needed.<br><br>
After two north Idaho winters, we’ve learned quite a lot with the heat testing results. Although SR3 was able to keep up with the snow in most situations, we’re increasing the heating capability of SR4 to allow for faster heating. This will allow the panels to more easily keep their temperatures up during heavy snowfall. <br><br>
The Sandpoint installation used anodized aluminum panel retainers between the panels. Since there is no heating in the gaps between the panels, these metal pieces took on the ambient temperature. We learned that they could create an ice bridge during really heavy snowfall combined with extremely low temperatures. We’ve designed a rubber replacement – a “t-channel” for the aluminum units. This new design also greatly simplifies installation and maintenance.<br><br>
The most disappointing aspect of the pilot project in Sandpoint has been the energy harvesting. In order to increase the number of solar cells in the SR3 panel (SR2 was 36-watts and SR3 is 44-watts), we used a parallel/series combination of cell connections. We also created a Consolidator Board to consolidate the power collected by the panels. We used a parallel/series combination on this board to create the power input requirements for the micro-inverters.<br><br>
Although all technical solar information I have found says that you can parallel solar power, we found that to be a very bad idea. All of the SR2 panels had their solar cells connected in series, so we’d never seen this problem. What we found was this: every panel produced power, but we couldn’t get them to combine properly to meet the input requirements of the micro-inverters. We were never able to “see” more than 1/3 of the power being produced. In addition, we learned that the extra laminate that was used in SR3 as compared to SR2 due to design changes interfered with solar gain. These problems have been eliminated with the new SR4 design.<br><br>
For SR4, we found a way to maximize the solar cell area while maintaining a series-connected system. We also increased the wattage from 44W (SR3) to 50W (SR4). In addition, we’ve going from 17.6-percent efficient solar cells (SR3) to 22.5-percent efficient solar cells (SR4). We’ll always be able to increase the solar gain over time as the solar industry continues to advance and make more efficient products for us to incorporate. All of this means that we’ll be able to produce a lot more power with the SR4 panels.<br><br>
We’ve also replaced the energy monitoring system with a more “Solar Road Panel friendly” monitoring system: one with a much larger input range that doesn’t require the parallel/series configurations.<br><br> When we get the SR4s installed, we’ll activate the system on the city’s website. For now, the current energy monitoring system reads zero because the panels have been disconnected from it.<br><br>
<b>Additional SR4 Improvements</b><br><br>
Another hard lesson learned: the cables that were used with the SR3 panels had a plastic jacket. Over time, this plastic jacket became brittle and cracked, allowing water into the cable. After several months, some of the panels began to fail. We’d see only half of the panel lit up. Eventually, the LED patterns would become corrupted and the panel could no longer be communicated with.<br><br>
We began removing the damaged panels and inspecting them. We found damaged cables where water had entered and began corroding the wires inside. This corrosion creates resistance, which in turn robs the panels of power. This means that the microprocessor, the LEDs, and the heating elements are not receiving the power that they need to function properly. <br><br>
The new SR4 design uses and molded rubber cable which remains much more flexible after the lamination process.<br><br>
<b>Civil Engineering Tests Completed</b><br><br>
As part of our third contract with the US Department of Transportation, our panels have been undergoing testing at the civil engineering department at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They performed the following tests:<br><br>
Accelerated load testing (simulates 15-years of truck abuse in 3-months)<br><br>
They were so impressed by the results of the testing that they want to co-author a journal paper with us about the overall test program. We’ll be releasing the findings in a scientific engineering journal. <br><br>
The Sandpoint pilot project gave us very valuable information: It allowed us time to tweak the LED intensity tables (the LEDs get brighter when the sun does likewise), adjust the heating profile with real time weather patterns, and taught us how to change our manufacturing process to solve the problems that were presented. It also pointed out the weaknesses in the SR3 panels, allowing us to finalize the SR4 design. <br><br>
We decided from the very beginning of our Solar Roadways journey to be as transparent as possible. We realize that is not the way startups usually operate, but we wanted to be different. We are doing this work for the world and we wanted to allow our fan base to come along with us on the journey. Most people have realized that problems are part and parcel of the learning curve with inventing. We’ve been grateful to have so much support as we’ve worked to improve the panels and get them ready for mass production.<br><br>
Since we’re done with the pilot project, and since the damaged cables are creating problems for the SR3 panels, we will shut down the Jeff Jones Square installation until spring, when we will replace the system with the new SR4 panels.<br><br>
The first of the SR4 circuit boards have been received and tested. The first SR4 panels should be completed by the end of January. They will be tested extensively. We’ll put a few in our parking lot on Pine Street in Sandpoint, where everyone will be welcome to visit. Others will go to temporary exhibits. We just announced that one of those events will be the Treefort Music Festival in Boise in March. When the weather warms up in the spring we’ll replace the SR3 panels with SR4 panels at Jeff Jones Town Square in Sandpoint. <br><br>
The SR4 will become the first commercially available Solar Road Panel.
I’m Scott and this is my first blog. I’m so busy with the technical side of Solar Roadways that I don’t have much time for writing. They keep me hard at work and hidden in a windowless office beneath the mezzanine! My formal training is in electrical engineering (MSEE). I’m the engineer who created the circuitry, laid out the circuit boards, wrote the firmware for the microprocessors, and wrote the software to run the devices that we call Solar Road Panels. <br/><br/>
While I’ve been busy with the engineering side of things, Julie has been doing a great job of interfacing with everyone on social media. She keeps our followers up to speed on what we’re doing, but she sometimes gets technical questions that she can’t answer. She’s asked me to give a brief overview of what we’ve been working on. <br/><br/>
Let’s start with the SR2 panels. Those are the (now famous) hexagonal green panels that you see (in videos and pictures) alongside our electrical shop in Idaho, where this all started. That parking lot/highway section was made of 108 Solar Road Panels and funded by our second contract with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). It was a proof-of-concept project to show that we could indeed generate power, illuminate road lines, heat the road surface, handle stormwater runoff, be modular (ease of maintenance), use recycled materials, can withstand repeated loading, meets or exceeds safety requirements of current paving systems, and offsets its own cost (through power generation, stormwater mitigation, leasing of the Cable Corridor, advertising, etc.). <br/><br/>
These SR2 panels had integrated heating elements, LEDs, and solar cells. The LEDs were controlled by an onboard microprocessor which communicated wirelessly to a computer. There were 128 LEDs, including red, green, blue, white, and yellow. The intensity of the LEDs could be adjusted, but only by a direct command from the computer. The heating elements were very basic: I had to climb into the Cable Corridor in the dead of winter to plug them in: functional, but not very practical! The solar cells produced DC power, which was then converted to 240VAC through a micro-inverter and fed into our shop’s load center (circuit breaker box). Our utility company installed a net meter, so whatever power the shop didn’t use was put back onto the local grid. Our proof-of-concept was a success and we were invited back for our third contract with the FHWA. The old parking lot/highway section has been cannibalized for the SR3 testing, but if you visit us, you’ll see an SR2 panel converted into a coffee table in our lobby. <br/><br/>
Since that time, we’ve renovated a building in town to serve as a manufacturing facility, purchased and learned how to use manufacturing equipment (a BIG learning curve – no equipment has been made for the type of manufacturing we are doing, so we had to buy existing machinery and create manufacturing processes to get to where we needed to be), and we’ve automated the functionality of the panels. We eliminated the mounting holes from SR2 to make room for more solar cells and devised a new mounting system. The addition of onboard sensors and controls took a tremendous amount of time and effort and testing to get right. Our current SR3 panels have all the features of SR2, but with the following enhancements: <br/><br/>
LEDs – a full sized hexagonal panel now has 336 LEDs. That’s 56 clusters of 6 LEDs, including red, green, blue, white (2), and yellow. We experimented with a true RGB LED, but experienced some problems: to make white, you illuminate all three (red, green, and blue). That requires three times the power of illuminating a single dedicated white LED. In addition, if you’re approaching the LED at an angle (as you would in a vehicle), and you’re coming from the side where the red LED is located, the white light takes on a pinkish look. Knowing that the state and federal DOTs wouldn’t put up with “pinkish” road lines, we added the dedicated white and yellow LEDs to get the true line colors and to conserve energy. <br/><br/>
The LED intensities are now automatically controlled by the microprocessor (uP). The uP has an onboard EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory), where I store the intensity tables. I designed in a light sensor on the circuit board which tells the uP the current ambient light conditions on the panel. The uP reads the light sensor, looks up the corresponding intensity and in the EEPROM, and adjusts the LEDs accordingly. That means that the LEDs automatically become brighter as the sunshine gets more intense. At night, the LEDs remain at an intensity of 1. The public installation at Jeff Jones Square was created as a pedestrian gathering plaza, but think of this: for a 2-lane road, with a solid yellow line down the middle and a solid white line on each side of the road, most of the panels would not even be lit up. In fact, less than 2-percent of the LEDs on that road would need to be illuminated for this standard road line configuration, using a negligible amount of energy. <br/><br/>
Heating – I designed the heating elements to be controlled by the microprocessor. The hexagon circuit board has four quadrants, each containing a heat sensor and a heating element. The uP is given a temperature threshold (it stores this in its EEPROM). For our winter experiments in Sandpoint, that temperature was set to 3⁰C (or 37.4⁰F). When one of the temperature sensors reported a reading lower than 3⁰C, the uP activated that quadrant’s heating element. Keeping the temperature of the panel at 3⁰C prevented the snow/ice from sticking to the surface. Keep in mind that it’s not even necessary to activate the heating elements unless precipitation is expected. <br/><br/>
Interesting story: a snow storm was expected one night, which would be the first real world test of the new heating system. I decided to stay in town until the heating elements kicked in. My software allows me to take readings from the panels: temperature sensors, light sensor, etc. The outside temperature had been hovering around 40⁰F all day, but fell to the upper 20s when the sun went down around 5-6pm. I had to wait until midnight for the internal temperature of the panels to fall below 37.4⁰F, which activated the heating elements. The panels weigh 70-pounds each and therefor behave as 70-pound heat sinks. They’re also mounted to the ground, so it took a very long time for the internal temperature to cool to the point where the heating elements needed to be activated. The system had no trouble keeping up with the snow. <br/><br/>
Solar collection – the SR2 panels were 36-watts and the SR3 panels are 44-watts. The energy collected by groups of six panels is brought together in what we call a Consolidator circuit board housed in either an electrical cabinet or a Cable Corridor. The Consolidator board routes power generated by the solar cells to the micro-inverter and provides power back to the LEDs and heating elements. At the Sandpoint installation, the micro-inverters feed the load center which runs the bathroom lights, a water fountain, the kiosk, overhead lights for the public square, etc. The solar installation is too small to run all of that on its own, but it offsets the amount of energy that the public square requires. <br/><br/>
The Consolidator board arranges the solar energy collected by the six panels in a series/parallel configuration, including bypass and blocking diodes. This arrangement is done to meet the input requirements of the micro-inverters. By making adjustments to this circuit board, we’re tweaking the energy harvesting capabilities of the Solar Road Panels. We’re also experimenting with moving the solar cells within the panels for more optimal solar harvesting ability. To an engineer, it can always be made better. Years ago, I was designing a product line for a company in Ohio. Someone placed a sign above my door that read, “There comes a time when you just have to shoot the engineer and go into production!”. <br/><br/>
The Jeff Jones Square installation in Sandpoint is a pilot project: a small-scale experiment to allow us to get “real world” empirical testing and make adjustments accordingly. When we first installed the panels, we adjusted the intensities of the LEDs under different sunlight conditions until we were able to create our first intensity table for the microprocessor to follow. When the snow was falling, we were experimenting with the best ways to operate the heating elements. Now that the sun is rising higher overhead, we’re tweaking the solar harvesting capabilities (although this seems to be the rainiest spring we’ve ever had, which makes our real world testing difficult!). We’ll post the energy link when we’ve finished tweaking everything for production. <br/><br/>
While juggling hardware, firmware, and production, I’m also working on software which will allow the LED lights to be quickly and easily changed. Right now it’s still a cumbersome process, so we are not changing the lights very often. The software will soon change that and we’ll begin to show you all of the possibilities for LED lit surfaces. <br/><br/>
We recently sent five of our Solar Road Panels to a university civil engineering lab for shear testing. Later this year, we’ll send out more panels for freeze/thaw cycling, moisture conditioning, and advanced loading (simulates 15 years of truck abuse in 3 months). This is all part of our third contract with the Federal Highway Administration. Stay tuned for the results. <br/><br/>
I’ll blog about each subsystem in more detail as time permits. I hope this sheds some light on the technical side of things and on the complexity of our system. These aren’t your typical solar panels! <br/><br/>
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-pound 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 email@example.com. 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/>