This video has made the rounds on social media lately. The idea to replace all existing American roads, parking lots, sidewalks, and driveways with smart, durable solar panels is an ambitious one. It may even be ingenious. It’s certainly worth more investment, which you can do at the engineer couple Scott and Julie Brusaw’s Solar Roadways Indiegogo page.
For all the entrepreneurial spirit described, and the gigantic, world changing effects of approximately tripling the United States’ energy output from non-carbon sources, this is not likely to be the silver bullet that solves climate change. It will take years, maybe decades, of political wrangling, extreme investment from private, local, state, and federal funds, and it will face fierce opposition from people who stand to lose profits — namely, those in the carbon emission industries like oil and coal.
But, as should always be kept in mind, the good can not be the enemy of the perfect. This will be a tremendous pain in the ass, with unprecedented construction, cost overruns, bitter and petty disputes, and any unforeseen consequences my small mind can’t currently fathom, but the benefits outweigh the headaches.
People like me in the polar north (Chicago) will no longer worry about the roads collecting traffic-slowing snow and sleet. Expensive paint will no longer be needed to create medians because of the LED lights installed in the solar roads. Power lines will be buried underground rather than subject to weather-related damage. Electric car refueling ports can be installed at even intervals so nobody runs out of electricity on long road trips. Other industries, like fiber internet, could join the effort to speed communication lines across the nation. The job gains would be humongous for the initial construction and many could be sustainable for upkeep and repair. Those repairs could be electronically monitored by the roads themselves, which would then alert repair crews.
And the big one: 100 percent energy independence from foreign oil and carbon (industries, not counting things like cattle flatulence) in general. The United States would be world leaders in energy and our technologies and manufacturing would again be the most in demand in the world.
I’ve put down a meager investment, and you should, too. It’s the best climate change solution I’ve seen for its utilization of economic growth, Jetsons-style futurism, and flexibility in helping to improve other industries.