Solar panels for the home and alternative fuel for transportation are two of the most widespread threads of innovation in sustainability, but they are rarely if ever discussed in parallel. Enter Solar Roadways, a project marrying the two in a prototype for solar-panel-covered roads.

Designed by electrical engineer Scott Brusaw, who was commissioned by the Federal Highway Administration to develop the first prototype in 2009, the concept consists of a series of structurally-engineered solar panels laid over the surface of the road, designed to replace current petroleum-based asphalt driving surfaces. This would transform existing road infrastructure into a giant energy storage unit, dramatically reducing the need for fossil fuels.

The project was a contender in GE's Ecomagination Challenge and though it didn't win, it's certainly among the most out-of-the-box yet practically viable ideas out there. More about the technical underpinnings of the concept can be found here.

Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of miscellaneous interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine, Design Observer and Huffington Post, and spends a shameful amount of time on Twitter.