The first public installation of low-wattage, energy-producing tempered glass solar panels manufactured by Solar Roadways is complete.

Thirty hexagonal-shaped Solar Roadways SR 3.1 panels, topped with low-iron Starphire glass by Vitro Architectural Glass and fabricated by Hartung Glass Industries, were installed in a 150-square-foot pedestrian area of Jeff Jones Town Square. The Square is an outdoor plaza in Sandpoint, Idaho, and and part of a pilot project to demonstrate the panels’ durability and strength under everyday foot and bicycle traffic.

Each panel is 15.6 inches long and 1.5 inches thick, weighs approximately 70 pounds, uses 44 watts of energy and contains four built-in heating elements to keep surfaces snow- and ice-free. Nearly 340 multicolored LED lights embedded in each tile can be programmed to display messages, patterns or traffic lines. The LED lights were activated to attract visitors to the Sandpoint pilot project.

The Solar Roadway panels are designed to reduce electrical costs by collecting and storing solar energy that is converted to alternating current (AC) energy, according to its producers. With a visible light transmittance of 84 percent and a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.82, Starphire glass by Vitro maximizes the solar transmission of the panels.

The long-term goal is to install the panels on highways and sidewalks, say Solar Roadways founders Scott and Julie Brusaw, who conceived the idea of using solar panels as an alternative to concrete or asphalt surfaces, generating power while still meeting transportation requirements.

The panels are designed to be durable enough for any walking or driving surface, according to Solar Roadways. The hexagonal shape provides stability and distributes loads against the six sides. In addition, the top of each panel features a fritted texture of crushed glass for traction.

Testing of a similar glass at a civil engineering lab showed the panels to have a load-strength of 250,000 pounds, more than enough to handle the weight of fully loaded semi-trucks, the Brusaws say.

The project at Sandpoint is intended to be a “dynamic” installation, which will be updated with new technologies as they are developed.