The Solar Roadways® journey began on an ordinary day as most life changing adventures do. Scott and Julie had known each other since they were small children, in southern California in the 1960’s when roads and highways looked, well – just like they do today!
Years later, married and living in Idaho, Scott and Julie were working in their garden. We’d been reading Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and were feeling very concerned about climate and environmental issues. Julie wondered aloud whether roads could be made out of solar panels. We’d been contemplating buying rooftop solar panels out of concern for the environment. Suddenly, an image popped into Julie’s mind of solar panels on the driveway and the road. She asked Scott’s opinion of this idea, but he just laughed and said that would be impossible – the fragile solar panels would be crushed by cars.
Julie dismissed the idea, but Scott’s engineering mind just couldn’t let it go. About a week later, he said, “If we can design a protective case, then you might be onto something about that solar roadway idea.” We decided to brainstorm. Many hours were spent on a couch getting more excited as realization after realization flowed into us:
“We could add heating elements and roads would always be snow free.”
“We could make road lines out of embedded LEDs.”
“This would generate SO much renewable energy.”
“Those ugly wires could go into some kind of compartment alongside the roads.”
“We could use the panels for parking lots too.”
On it went until we had written up a nice summary of the idea. We decided to present it to our friend and neighbor Dr. Pam Bird, author of the book, “Inventing for Dummies”, whose company had been advising inventors for many years. Pam thought the pursuit would be difficult, but ultimately could be very successful.
Side note: Pam and her husband, the famous inventor Dr. Forrest Bird both became valued members of the Solar Roadways’ Advisory Board. Tragically, both died in 2015: Forrest of natural causes, and Pam lost her life while flying her own plane. We miss them both terribly.
With Pam’s blessing, we decided to take a leap of faith and see if the world liked our idea. We’ve been fortunate to have ever gathering supporters join us along the way, but in the beginning, it was just the two of us (Scott and Julie). Scott had just finished an engineering job in Italy and decided to devote himself full time to the new endeavor, while Julie continued her private counseling practice. We started a website and a few articles were written about our wild idea. We began the long, arduous, and expensive patent process.
A couple of fortuitous events happened. The YERT team, who were making a documentary
called “Your Environmental Road Trip” (YERT), came to visit. They were traveling to all fifty states to look for ideas to halt global warming. Their footage of Scott was included in their documentary, which generated publicity for us. We were invited to speak at Booz Allen Hamilton in Virginia. We were near Washington DC, so we thought we would try to speak to some senators and congress people about our idea. One of those was Idaho’s own Senator Mike Crapo, who was immediately supportive and later made this video for us.