Back in mid-July GE and a group of venture capital firms kicked off an online, community driven challenge to find the next great green tech ideas for possible funding. The $200 million GE ecomagniation Challenge, which ended in September, drew over 3,800 entries by the end. Now, the first community voted Challenge winner has been selected – Solar Roadways.

Solar Roadways, which receives a nice $50,000 award, is described as a “unique concept to make roads out of recyclable solar panels.” It was formulated by Idaho-based Scott and Julie Brusaw and, according to the primary website of the project, looks to replace asphalt and concrete surfaces with solar panels that could be driven upon. In this idea, explained the Brusaws, they speculated that “suppose we made a section of road out of this material and housed solar cells to collect energy, which could pay for the cost of the panel, thereby creating a road that would pay for itself over time. What if we added LEDs to “paint” the road lines from beneath, lighting up the road for safer night time driving? What if we added a heating element in the surface (like the defrosting wire in the rear window of our cars) to prevent snow/ice accumulation in northern climates? The ideas and possibilities just continued to roll in and the Solar Roadway project was born.”

Solar Roadways
image via Solar Roadways

The Solar Roadways project, besides getting the money from the GE event, last year received a contract from the Federal Highway Administration to build the first ever Solar Road Panel prototype. As for the founders, Scott Brusaw is an electrical engineer with over 20 years of industry experience, while Julie Brusaw is a therapist. This is definitely a homegrown project, but when you consider the level of exposure it now has from essentially winning the people’s choice award from the ecomagination Challenge, we expect it will start to attract many more investors and interest.

GE next plans to announce Innovation Award winners from the ecomagination Challenge in early November.

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