Alum’s Solar Roadway Plan Gains Traction

Julie Brusaw (’91, Psychology) and her husband Scott are paving the way to a more sustainable future.

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Julie Brusaw (’91, Psychology) and her husband Scott show off their prototype solar panel parking lot in Idaho.

The couple founded Solar Roadways, an Idaho company that recently raised $2 million in a crowd funding campaign for a solar paneled road project that could revolutionize America’s transportation grid, reduce dependence on foreign oil and alleviate global warming.

Their goal is to replace the country’s entire asphalt road system with super-strong textured glass panels that would charge electric vehicles with energy from the sun and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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A graphic illustration of a solar highway.

Although the cost of such a massive project is unclear, the couple recently finished a solar parking lot prototype with funding from the Federal Highway Administration. And in recent months, their idea has started to gain traction. After receiving a Twitter endorsement from celebrity George Takei, their YouTube video went viral (16 million views at most recent count), leading to a barrage of media attention from major news outlets like The Washington Post and CNN and a flurry of monetary donations.

The Brusaws are hoping the financial boost will help them perfect their concept, which has been years in the making.

Julie, an HSU alum, has always been interested in sustainability. “I’ve always cared deeply for the environment and that is one of the things that brought me to Humboldt State,” she says. Scott, an electrical engineer by trade, became interested in electric roads when he was kid. “I thought if I made real roads electric, then us kids could drive,” he recently told CNN. “That thought stuck with me my entire life.”

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Mounting hole cover.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that Julie suggested they explore the idea of replacing traditional roads with a solar alternative. They spent years developing a design which incorporates environmental features such as LED markers, a heating function, a way to treat stormwater and warn drivers if an animal is in the road.

The Brusaws plan to use donations from their recent crowd funding campaign to hire an engineering team and test their technology on a larger scale. Meanwhile, the outpouring of support continues to come in from every corner of the country and the world, Julie says: “We actually have lots of supporters from the [Humboldt] area!”