A cycle path in the Netherlands has been paved with solar panels as part of a project to test the viability of generating energy from sunlight falling on road surfaces.
The SolaRoad project has fitted a cycle path near Amsterdam with large modules of tiled solar panels, each with heavy-duty glass protecting them from wear and topped with a rough translucent plastic coating to ensure cyclists do not slip.
The route will be officially opened later today and each square metre of road should generate 50-70kW/h of energy per year – about enough for the initial 70m test stretch to power one house, according to Sten de Wit of engineering firm TNO, which is leading the consortium behind the project.
“This could be a breakthrough in the field of sustainable energy supply, particularly if the road concept will develop into a system with which the generated electricity is transported to the vehicles driving on the road,” he said.
“Try to imagine that power will then be generated at the place where it is needed. Subsequently, a big step towards an energy-neutral mobility system will be possible.”
The SolaRoad being installed near the town of Krommenie will be constructed using prefabricated slabs consisting of concrete modules of 2.5m by 3.5m with a 1cm-thick top layer of translucent tempered glass covering crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells. An initial 70m will be installed with a further 30m to be added at a later date.
The three-year project, which will involve monitoring of the path's performance as well as continuing R&D work, will cost €3m (£2.3m).
The Netherlands has more than 450km2 of road surface and the company, which has partnered with the Province of Noord-Holland, road construction company Ooms Civiel and technical service provider Imtech, hopes to use electricity generated from converting these surfaces to SolaRoads to power street lighting, traffic systems, households and electric vehicles.
The company eventually hopes to use smart IT applications to efficiently distribute energy production on days with lots of sunshine, in order to compensate for less sunny days. Other potential applications for the generated energy and alternative solar cell and glass technologies will also be investigated during the pilot.