In 2014, the company raised US$2 million through Indiegogo, thanks largely to their viral ‘Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways’ campaign. In 2015, they got mentioned by Obama in his State of the Union address. But where are they now?
Solar Roadways is an Idaho-based company founded by Scott and Julie Brusaw. Their concept involves replacing asphalt with modular solar panels, turning highways into sustainable energy sources.
The couple pitched this idea in 2010, and claimed that the product could deliver three times America’s electricity needs, and that their panels could also melt snow, filter storm water, replace above-ground cables, and light up to warn motorists.
Since then, the company has met a mixture of unwavering support and pragmatic criticism. On one hand, they’ve received huge funding from Indiegogo and the US Department of Transportation. On the other, their idea has been hit by many as costly and impractical.
More recently, Solar Roadways launched its first public installation in Jeff Jones Town Square in Sandpoint, Idaho. The pilot project involves 30 panels covering an area of about 150 square feet. The tiles haven’t generated electricity yet, but it’s a big step towards achieving the company’s long-term goal.
We had the honour of talking to Scott and Julie Brusaw to know more about Solar Roadways and their plans for their revolutionary concept.
What was the inspiration for Solar Roadways?
“I attribute divine inspiration – it just came to me one day. Our focus from the beginning has been to help the environment, including climate change.”
How far has Solar Roadways come along since you pursued the idea a few years ago?
“You can find much information on our website, including our press, our various videos and TV spots, our research etc. It would take pages to try to tell you about our progress, but the short answer is that we are in our third USDOT contract. They have funded all of our past and current research. We’ve solved various engineering challenges and are now ready for full production. We are also scheduling meetings with interested investors now to get us there.”
And how far off until we see these technology applied in US roads?
“We’ve always planned that roads would be our last application… perhaps three more years.”
A lot have said this idea was outlandish and crazy, especially a few years back. Has there been a change in mindsets and attitudes surrounding Solar Roadways?
“Yes, thankfully, naysayers have gradually declined as accurate information about our progress has helped to dispel the myths that various ‘debunkers’ have promulgated. We are grateful to have supporters and interested customers from virtually every country in the world.”
Much of your success can be attributed to your marketing savvy. We’re talking about that viral Solar Freakin’ Roadways video. How much has that video helped get the word out about your product, and what’s your advice on creating brand awareness?
“We can’t take credit for SFR – that was created by a volunteer. It’s had over 22 million views and has helped us tremendously. My advice is to create personal relationships with supporters. I personally respond to people on our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and many people have commented about how much that means to them.”
What are your plans for 2017?
“We are creating panels for our next pilot project in Baltimore but our primary focus is to raise the funds for full production so that we can begin to say ‘yes’ to waiting customers. We also were just named a winner in Colorado Department of Transportation’s contest, which I wrote about for our Facebook page.”