Netherlands – An ambitious solar road project in the Netherlands, where the world’s first solar road has been built, is outperforming the expectations of project engineers.
The energy harvesting bike path, paved with specialized glass-coated solar panels, has performed even better than expected over the first six months of the trial, with the 70-meter, or 290ft, bike path generating 3,000kWh of energy; the amount needed to power an average home for a year.
“If we translate this to an annual yield, we expect more than the 70kwh per square metre per year,” Sten de Wit, spokesman for SolaRoad, the group behind the project, told Al Jazeera.
The durable roadway solar panels are layered between glass, concrete and silicon rubber. The panels are strong enough to support a 12 ton fire truck without damage, with each individual panel connecting to a smart meter to optimize output and feed electricity directly into the power grid, street lighting or any other uses needed.
“If one panel is broken or in shadow or dirt, it will only switch off that PV panel,” said Jan-Hendrik Kremer, Renewable Energy Systems consultant at technology company Imtech. Over five years of research was invested, by engineers, into creation of the durable system.
During the trial over 150,000 cyclists rode on the solar bike path, with the only defect noticed thus far being a small section of coating, used to provide grip to the surface, becoming delaminated due to temperature fluctuations.
The research team is currently improving the coating design.
“We made a set of coatings, which are robust enough to deal with the traffic loads but also give traction to the vehicles passing by,” Stan Klerks, a scientist at Dutch research group TNO – the parent company, which developed SolaRoad – told Al Jazeera.
The researcher engineers designed the solar panels to last at least 20 years.
The applications for this technology are virtually limitless. If all roadways, sidewalks and bike paths were paved in these solar panels the power needs of the world would quickly become a problem of the past.
In a flair of artistic beauty, a solar road was installed by a Dutch design lab, Studio Roosegaarde, which harnessed the sun’s energy during the day and then used that energy to light the path with a Vincent Van Gogh ‘Starry Starry Night’ inspired LED lighting.
SolaRoad is currently working to bring the technology to other provinces in the Netherlands by working with local councils and an agreement has been signed with the state of California to roll out the technology in the United States.
Forward thinking municipalities will surely see the long term value of investing in this technology, as it could change the current paradigm for a city’s funding and energy needs over the long term.
If utilized properly, this technology could be a true game changer!