Thumbs up: Dutch solar bike path performs better than expected

Wed, 2015-05-20 06:00 -- SCC Staff

We told you last fall about a bike path near Amsterdam referred to as SolaRoad. The concept is straightforward: pave roads with solar panels that could eventually provide power for street lights and traffic controls, and maybe even homes and electric vehicles.

Sustainable Business reports the short stretch of bike path has already produced more power than anticipated. The 230-foot stretch has produced 3,000 kilowatt-hours of power, enough to keep the juice flowing in a single-person residence.

How does it work?
The project is a public-private effort involving the Dutch province of Noord-Holland and TNO, Ooms and Imtech engineering companies. What the engineers came up with was a system of prefabricated concrete covered by solar panels and a top layer of tempered glass to protect them. The challenge was to develop a surface strong enough to withstand the weight of large vehicles such as buses and trucks while at the same time capable of resisting dirt and skids. The engineers are now working on improving the glass layer to prevent it from shrinking when temperatures change.

The panels in the $3.7 million project are linked to smart meters that increase their output and provide electricity for the grid or street lights.

The Netherlands is not a top producer of solar power, although installed solar capacity jumped 50% last year, according to estimates. Renewable energy now accounts for a little less than 9% of electricity used in the country. The project’s developers believe about 20% of the country’s roads would be suitable for solar panel installations.

A somewhat different approach in the U.S.
Idaho-based Solar Roadways has been working on a similar goal – paving roads and other surfaces with solar panels. And the company has plenty of supporters. Solar Roadways secured an $850,000 Federal Highway Administration grant for a pilot project, and it managed to raise $2.2 million in a crowdfunding effort last year.

Solar Roadways developed its first road panel in 2009 and with the help of additional grants, finished up an experimental solar-paneled parking lot last year. It plans to use money from its successful crowdfunding to take the version of the panels it used for that project into production.

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