Dutch solar road makes ‘more energy than expected’

12 May 2015
By Laura Onita
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A solar bike path has generated more than 3,000kwh since the 70-metre stretch opened [Credit: SolaRoad]

The world’s first solar road is generating more electricity than expected six months after its unveiling, Dutch engineers have said.

In November 2014, a 70-metre test track along a bike path that connects the Amsterdam suburbs of Krommenie and Wormerveer became the world’s first public road with embedded solar panels.

Now, engineers have announced that the road has produced more than 3,000kwh of electricity – enough to power a single household for a year.

“We did not expect a yield as high as this so quickly,” said Sten de Wit, spokesman for the SolaRoad project.

Talking about the first six months of a three-year pilot, Wit said: “If we translate this to an annual yield, we expect more than the 70kwh per square meter per year.

“We predicted [this] as an upper limit in the laboratory stage. We can therefore conclude that it was a successful first half year.”

The road is made up of rows of crystalline silicon solar cells, encased within concrete and with a translucent layer of tempered glass overlaid. The top layer is dirt-repellent to guarantee maximum exposure to sunlight by keeping the surface clean.

The solar panels are connected to smart meters, which optimise their output and feed the electricity either to street lighting or to the grid.

“If one panel is broken or in shadow or dirt, it will only switch off that PV panel,” Jan-Hendrik Kremer, Renewable Energy Systems consultant at technology company Imtech, told Al-Jazeera.

Since the path can’t be tilted to face the sun, the panels produce roughly 30 per cent less energy than those fixed on to roofs. However, the road's creators are hopeful that it will produce enough energy to power three households and by 2016 the road could be extended to 100 metres.

So far, approximately 150,000 cyclists have ridden over the road and, if trials go well, the companies working on the project are thinking of developing solar panels that could withstand large buses and vehicles.

A similar initiative is the Solar Roadways project in the US, which underwent a fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo last year and raised more than $2.2m.

However, it is still premature to assume the US will see solar roads installed, since safety could be at risk. Such roads are unlikely to stand up to heavy traffic without the glass protecting the solar panels breaking.

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