By Cameron Rasmusson
The second time looks to be the charm for the Sandpoint Solar Roadways demonstration.
While its September debut was hampered by installation delays and malfunctioning panels, the demonstration is set to go live with full functionality and several structural improvements by the end of December. The process began two weeks ago, with Solar Roadways personnel removing the malfunctioning tiles.
The new demonstration project will feature several enhancements. The base layer on which the Solar Roadways panels rest will be made of concrete, which will provide a more uniform and level surface compared to the original demonstration.
“[In the old installation,] they had installed directly on sand, which is not what they had done in previous test installations,” Sandpoint City Planner Jennifer Stapleton said. “[In the past,] they had installed on concrete.”
The intended functionality of the panels will also be intact. While manufacturing the panels for the original installation, the Solar Roadways crew suffered from a malfunctioning laminating machine that bakes all the electronic components together. As a result, the orginal installation’s solar generation and other features were disabled. The new panels will generate electricity and melt snow and ice in addition to the LED patterns and walkable surfaces of the original demonstration.
The fully functioning demonstration will also allow the city to introduce some planned features. The webcam on Jeff Jones Town Square, currently offline until the new panels are installed, will be upgraded to feature real-time data on electricity generation. Meanwhile, the city will start benefiting from the solar energy generation, which will power the nearby bathrooms.
The Solar Roadways demonstration project is primarily funded through a Gem State grant from the state of Idaho, as well as contributions from the Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency and some match funding from the city.