Artist's rendition of downtown Sandpoint, Idaho, where Scott and Julie Brusaw reside. (Graphic design by Sam Cornett, Solar Roadways)
An artist’s rendition of downtown Sandpoint, Idaho, where Scott and Julie Brusaw, founders of Solar Roadways, reside. (Graphic design by Sam Cornett, Solar Roadways)

If things go the way Scott and Julie Brusaw plan, the glass industry could be in for a ride.

The Idaho couple is full steam in the pre-manufacturing stage of their invention Solar Roadways, a project that has built a lot of media buzz of late. Solar Roadways is a modular paving system of solar panels the Brusaws hope will one day be widely used throughout the world in place of asphalt and concrete.

Solar Roadways, which has been an ongoing project for years, just finished its second prototype thanks in part to several grants from the federal highway system. It also started an online fundraising campaign in late April to kick start the manufacturing process, which is on pace to eclipse the $2 million mark by mid-June. Their goal was $1 million.

Its official website goes into great detail on in the intricacies of the invention, one of which is the ever-important glass surface of the panels.

“The idea of making a road out of glass is really out-of-the-box thinking, because most people, when you mention the word ‘glass,’ all they can think about is fragility and ability to fracture,” Penn State University professor of materials Carlo Pantano said in a video on the website. “In fact, glass can have as high a strength as steel.”

According Solar Roadways, testing has shown the glass on the system can withstand 250,000 pounds, and it also underwent traction and impact resistance testing, all of which “exceeded all expectations.”

In the developmental stage of the project, the Brusaws reached out to Glasslam to develop a lamination system for Solar Roadways. Despite some immediate skepticism, it didn’t take long to convince CEO Steve Howes to get on board.

“When they first came to me, I thought this was a story from ‘The Jetsons,’” says Howes.

Howes was intrigued by how “passionate” the Brusaws were about it and ultimately added some resources to the project. Glasslam, which was able to develop lamination that increased the output in the panels’ solar cells, sent an engineer to help work on the prototype.

The next chapter of Solar Roadways’ journey is to implement the system in parking lots, and after that, according to the website, “the next logical step would be residential roads, where speeds are slower than highways and trucks are not as common. The final goal should be the nation’s highways.”

Solar Roadways has a long road ahead, as major hurdles will continue to emerge—namely cost. But if the technology does take off, Howes says the possibilities it would provide for the glass industry are enormous.

“I’ve been in the game for 40 years, and there’s nothing I’ve seen that could change the glass industry like this,” says Howes. “… It has the potential to use more glass than all the buildings in the U.S. put together.”