Could a roadway paved with solar panels generate enough revenue to pay for itself, and more?

That's a question Missouri Department of Transportation officials hope to address with a pilot project to create a solar sidewalk at an Interstate 44 rest area in Webster County.

The solar project is one outgrowth of MoDOT's "Road to Tomorrow" program. Just over a year ago, a team of experts from MoDOT was assembled to evaluate ideas submitted by private industry, entrepreneurs, innovators and others.

"Developing solar panels you can drive on," is a concept MoDOT will put to the test by year's end, according to Tom Blair, assistant district engineer in MoDOT's St. Louis area district and leader of "Road to Tomorrow."

The state agency will be working with Idaho-based Solar Roadways, founded by inventors Scott and Julie Brusaw. The company has passed two tests with federal highway officials and the Missouri project will mark a continuation of federal testing.

Blair likened the solar panels to bullet-proof glass, characterized by the company as specially formulated tempered glass that provides traction similar to asphalt and can support the weight of semi-trucks.

MoDOT officials acknowledge the concept will be subject to skepticism from Show-Me state residents. "We're Missouri and taxpayers" will want to be convinced the product meets promotional promises.

Missourians, however, also will want to prepare to stretch their imaginations.

"Technology already has changed how we think about different aspects of our lives," Blair said, "and it is going to disrupt everything that every one of us transportation leaders have experienced to date in our life."

He added that if transportation officials fail to embrace technology, "We will soon have self-driving, 'smart' vehicles on our dumb and underfunded roadways."

Exactly.

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission.


About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

Recommended for you

Join the conversation

When posting comments, please follow our community guidelines:
• Login with a social account on WorldTable.
• Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language or engage in personal attacks.
• Stay on topic. Don’t hijack a forum to talk about something else or to post spam.
• Abuse of the community could result in being banned.
• Comments on our website and social media may be published in our newspaper or on our website.