A solar road (Netherlands)
In the Netherlands, a 70-metre stretch of cycle path near Amsterdam is to become the world’s first public road with embedded solar panels.
The solar panels are to be installed in a popular cycle path connecting the Amsterdam suburbs of Krommenie and Wormerveer, and are expected to generate enough electricity to power nearly three houses.
Costing around €3m (£2.4m) and funded mostly by the local authority, the path is made up of “rows of crystalline silicon solar cells, encased within concrete and covered with a translucent layer of tempered glass.”
A non-adhesive finish slight tilting of the road surface ensures the path stays naturally clean from rainfall, guaranteeing maximum exposure to sunlight.
The panels produce roughly 30% less energy than roof-mounted solar panels, since they are less optimally placed to catch the sun.
Despite this, the energy generated is far from negligible and the schemes creators - the Dutch TNO research institute - are already planning to increase the path panelling to 100m and are considering potentially extending the scheme to roads.
Sten de Wit of the TNO institute has said that up to 20% of the Netherlands’ 140,000km of road could potentially be adapted to solar, giving power to traffic lights, electric cars and local homes.
While the Dutch project is the first to be operational, harnessing existing road infrastructure to harvest solar energy is gaining momentum across the globe. Two United States based engineers, Idaho couple Julie and Scott Brusaw, have been developing solar panelling units for road use since 2006 with the their company ‘Solar Roadways’.
In 2009, Solar Roadways received a contract from America’s Federal Highway Administration to build a prototype. In March 2014, the Brusaws upgraded their own parking lot with solar-panelled units and raised $2.2m (£1.4m) from the publicity to put their design into production.
Solar Roadways estimates that if all the roads in the US were converted to solar, the country could meet current energy demand three times over, and cut greenhouse gases by 75%.
Come on a journey around the world to where our green economy hubs are mapping out the transition.