Environment

World's first solar bike path set to open in the Netherlands

Over a three-year period, the team will conduct testing to ascertain how much energy the SolaRoad is capable of generating
Over a three-year period, the team will conduct testing to ascertain how much energy the SolaRoad is capable of generating
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The SolaRoad project has been in the works since 2009
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The SolaRoad project has been in the works since 2009
Pre-fabricated concrete slabs measuring 2.5 x 3.5 m (8.2 x11.5 ft) make up the path, and feature a layer of crystalline silicon solar cells with a 1 cm (0.4 in) protective layer of tempered glass on top
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Pre-fabricated concrete slabs measuring 2.5 x 3.5 m (8.2 x11.5 ft) make up the path, and feature a layer of crystalline silicon solar cells with a 1 cm (0.4 in) protective layer of tempered glass on top
The team says that the top layer is translucent so as to allow the sunlight through, while also strong enough to provide a safe road surface
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The team says that the top layer is translucent so as to allow the sunlight through, while also strong enough to provide a safe road surface
Pre-fabricated concrete slabs measuring 2.5 x 3.5 m (8.2 x11.5 ft) make up the path, and feature a layer of crystalline silicon solar cells with a 1 cm (0.4 in) protective layer of tempered glass on top
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Pre-fabricated concrete slabs measuring 2.5 x 3.5 m (8.2 x11.5 ft) make up the path, and feature a layer of crystalline silicon solar cells with a 1 cm (0.4 in) protective layer of tempered glass on top
The SolaRoad is set to open in Amsterdam next week
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The SolaRoad is set to open in Amsterdam next week
Pre-fabricated concrete slabs measuring 2.5 x 3.5 m (8.2 x11.5 ft) make up the path, and feature a layer of crystalline silicon solar cells with a 1 cm (0.4 in) protective layer of tempered glass on top
6/8
Pre-fabricated concrete slabs measuring 2.5 x 3.5 m (8.2 x11.5 ft) make up the path, and feature a layer of crystalline silicon solar cells with a 1 cm (0.4 in) protective layer of tempered glass on top
To start out, with a 70 meter (230 ft) long bicycle path with embedded solar panels will open on November 12
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To start out, with a 70 meter (230 ft) long bicycle path with embedded solar panels will open on November 12
Over a three-year period, the team will conduct testing to ascertain how much energy the SolaRoad is capable of generating
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Over a three-year period, the team will conduct testing to ascertain how much energy the SolaRoad is capable of generating

The world's first solar bike path is set to open in the Netherlands next Wednesday. The SolaRoad will run through Amsterdam's northern suburb of Krommenie and will feature concrete slabs embedded with solar panels to convert energy from the sun into electricity for the grid.

The SolaRoad project has been in the works since 2009, when the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), led a team of road construction and technical service providers to explore the solar potential of Holland's roads. It estimates that the 140,000 km (87,000 mi) of roads in the country provide between 400 and 500 km sq (154 - 193 mi sq) of surface area that could potentially be tapped for solar power.

To start out, a 70 m (230 ft) long bicycle path with embedded solar panels will open on November 12. Pre-fabricated concrete slabs measuring 2.5 x 3.5 m (8.2 x 11.5 ft) make up the path and feature a layer of crystalline silicon solar cells with a 1 cm (0.4 in) protective layer of tempered glass on top. The team says that this top layer is translucent so as to allow the sunlight through, while also strong enough to provide a safe road surface.

Pre-fabricated concrete slabs measuring 2.5 x 3.5 m (8.2 x11.5 ft) make up the path, and feature a layer of crystalline silicon solar cells with a 1 cm (0.4 in) protective layer of tempered glass on top
Pre-fabricated concrete slabs measuring 2.5 x 3.5 m (8.2 x11.5 ft) make up the path, and feature a layer of crystalline silicon solar cells with a 1 cm (0.4 in) protective layer of tempered glass on top

Over a three-year period, the team will conduct testing to ascertain exactly how much energy the road is capable of generating as well as gauging the safety of the road in different weather conditions. Energy generated by SolaRoad will be directed back into the grid, with the team anticipating it could one day power traffic installations, road lighting, homes and electric cars. It hopes to extend the path to 100 m (330 ft), a length the team estimates will provide enough power for 2-3 homes.

SolaRoad is not the first project aimed at turning roads and pathways into energy-harvesting surfaces. This year the US-based Solar Roadways team has been gathering steam in its bid to replace regular asphalt with solar panels. The company received a contract to develop a prototype of its solution, which it then followed up on with an operational solar power parking lot.

There are some slight differences in their approach. Solar Roadways is unashamedly thinking big picture, integrating programmable LEDs to form custom roadsigns, heating elements to stave off ice and snow, and special corridors to house fiber optic and TV cables.

By channeling its energy into the bicycle path pilot, SolaRoad is aiming to establish maximum solar efficiency on a small scale first. It says this more cost-effective strategy will see money saved for further development down the (solar-powered) road.

The Dutch language video below gives an overview of the project.

Source: SolaRoad

SolaRoad, de weg van de toekomst

12 comments
Freyr Gunnar
> Energy generated by SolaRoad will be directed back into the grid, with the team anticipating it could one day power traffic installations, road lighting, homes and electric cars. What's wrong with using regular power plants to run those devices? Solar and wind are (very) expensive solutions looking for a problem. Besides, their intermittency requires running a gas power plant most of the time. Go nuclear: CO2-free, generates lots of electricity while using very little land.
Zolartan
Solar and wind are in fact (far) cheaper than nuclear energy. For the operators of the power plant the cost might be low. But this is due to direct and indirect subsidies. Research Subsidies Research in nuclear energy was and still is funded by billions of $ and € paid by taxpayers (to a much higher degree than for renewable energies). Externalized Costs Costs for nuclear catastrophes like Chernobyl and Fukushima are neither paid by the plant's operator nor by the nuclear industry but by the taxpayers. Costs for nuclear waste disposal are once again covered by taxpayers of the current and mainly of future generations. In Germany the storage of nuclear waste has generated costs of billions of euro only in the last few decades. You can extrapolate the costs for the next few thousand years (half time of Plutonium: 24 000 years) and you will get an idea of how “cheap” nuclear energy really is. The operators of nuclear power plants do not need to pay for an insurance against „beyond design basis accidents“ or terrorist attacks. You might want to ask your favourite nuclear power supplier how their plants would handle a collision with a passenger plane. I don't think you will like their answer. New Plants even more expensive Even ignoring all those externalized costs new nuclear power plants can often not compete with cheaper solar and wind energy. The British government for example guarantees a feed-in tariff for the new nuclear reactor Hinkley Point C of approx. 11 cent/kWh for a duration of 30 years. This is higher than the feed-in tariff for wind and large scale solar power plants in Germany (guaranteed for a shorter duration). Operating Costs != Consumer Price Last but not least you should remember that operating costs are not equal to consumer prices for nuclear and fossil power plants. Electricity from building-integrated PV and wind power plants therefore only needs to have lower costs than the consumer grid electricity price to be a cheaper option for the consumer compared to nuclear (and coal) power.
Pablo Mora
not the right angle for nederlands, tempererd glass does not look like a good idea, lots of dust and dirt, shadows from trees and pedestrians... it's going to be an expensive path and a bad use for solar cells.
Catweazle
Every time I've been to Holland it's been persisting it down. It might work in the Mojave desert perhaps, but not in Northern Europe!
Zolartan
@Pablo Shadows from pedestrians on a bike path should be negligible ;) The non-optimal angle, shadows from trees and buildings and dirt will however definitely reduce the power output. To see how strong this effect is in practice, is exactly the aim of this demonstration project. If it turns out to be an acceptable reduction the potential of PV on roads would be huge. @Catweazle In the desert you would have the increased problem of dust, sand and heat (reduces efficiency of the solar cells). The potential of PV in (northern) Europe is often underestimated – especially as costs for solar systems is falling continuously.
Mark Moed
Please show some pictures during night time, that's the reason why it is invented. We've seen some pretty amazing footage taken in the night, on televison, here in the Netherlands.
BT
Solar road just seems dumb to me, riders shadow it, and it would have better gathering power at an angle elsewhere. It's a poor use of materials, gimmicky, ritzy. Why not make rentable bikes which generate via pedaling then when put away(lock in transfer position) pass the energy to the sidewalks battery, or just a regular panel near by at a better angle supplying the power. Why fuze sidewalk and panels(more than likely thin film needing replacement in 8 years) seems a poor pairing.
Bruce H. Anderson
It seems a surface that would provide traction (that means rough, especially when wet) would also be hard to keep clean, thereby reducing the effective gathering capacity of the solar cells. I wish them luck but have my doubts.
Rann Xeroxx
Your comments about nuclear energy are a bit dated. Many of the very latest generators cannot go critical, do not use water to cool, and produce very little in the way of waste. And new technologies are in testing that will actually consume waste. Those plant accidents that you mentioned are from designs dating back to the 50's and 60's (even if they were built later). Nuclear is a good choice for future replacements of those gas fire plants that fill in the gap of other renewables, like solar and wind, when they are not producing. Far into the future this might come in the form of fusion instead of fission.
Zolartan
@Rann Xeroxx You might take a look here for more detailed arguments: http://zolarenergy.net/en/index.php?category=ee&page=arguments Radioactive Waste All currently operational nuclear power plants do produce radioactive waste. This poses a huge environmental threat. Waste is dumped into oceans (France for instance still does that, http://www.taz.de/!42111/), stored open-air in Russia (http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/radioactive-waste-german-company-sent-nuclear-material-for-open-air-storage-in-siberia-a-655934.html) and thrown into leaky old salt mines (http://www.zeit.de/wissen/umwelt/2014-03/atommuell-bergung-lager-asse-hendricks). In future, nuclear power plants consuming radioactive waste might or might not work from a technological and economic standpoint. The fact remains that producing highly toxic radioactive waste without a disposal solution is highly irresponsible and unethical. You do NOT start to invent, develop, design and build a parachute AFTER you jump from a plane. Radioactive waste already dumped into the environment (e.g. into the oceans) is very hard or even impossible to recover even even for the theoretical case that we one day will have “waste eating” nuclear plants. Reactor Safety I talk about the safety of the nuclear power plants currently operational. So my comments are completely up to date. Nuclear reactors that cannot go critical … hm there I immediately have to think about ships that (supposedly) cannot sink (like the Titanic). Humans and thus technology by nature are not perfect and errors will be made – this is especially true if reduced safety means higher profits. The reactor designs of Chernobyl and Fukushima were also deemed 100% safe by many until the accidents occurred. Nuclear and Renewable Nuclear power and renewable energies are in fact a very bad match. The output of nuclear and coal power plants cannot be flexibly regulated (mostly only on or off). So nuclear power plants cannot replace the flexible gas plants. Even today the rigid power output of nuclear and coal power plants poses a problem for renewable energies in Germany. As the output of these plants cannot be sufficiently reduced wind turbines have to go off-grid in times of high wind in order to prevent an electricity over-production. This fact remains the same for possible future fusion power plants. You cannot have both nuclear and coal power plants and a high percentage of renewable energies – or at least it would be much more expensive compared to a 100% renewable energy production. The latter is possible if you consider a suitable combination of mainly solar and wind power, demand side management, battery storage and replacing natural gas with renewable energy gas (http://zolarenergy.net/en/index.php?category=ee&subcategory=erneuerbar&page=100percent-motivation).