You've heard of solar panels on roofs — but what about on roads? Apparently the Dutch are running out of roof space, because they're now opening the world's first public road lined with solar panels on Wednesday. The SolaRoad — a road surface that doubles as an electricity generator — is a 230-foot bike path, reports the Guardian.
At $3.75 million, It's a hefty price to pay for a bike path — but keep in mind that the Netherlands is the bicycle hub of the world (no pun intended). About 2,000 cyclists ride the path's two lanes every day.
According to SolaRoad's press release, the road is made up of rows of crystalline silicon solar cells encased by concrete and covered with a thin layer of tempered glass. The issue with the design is that, unlike that of solar roof panels, the angle of the road panels cannot be adjusted to get the optimal amount of sunlight, thus producing 30% less energy than the roof panels do. However, in 2016, the path will be extended 100 meters, hopefully producing enough energy to power three households.
The Netherlands' TNO research institute, which developed this concept, thinks this is just the beginning:
Sten de Wit of the institute told the Guardian that up to 20% of the Netherlands' 140,000km of road could potentially be adapted, helping to power anything from traffic lights to electric cars. Tests have seen the solar panel units successfully carry the weight of heavy vehicles such as tractors.
He may be right, because the U.S. is even developing plans for solar roads — maybe even highways someday. But before bigger plans go into action, it's good to start on a smaller scale.
Here's to hoping the solar bike path in the Netherlands is a success — because, as the Solar Roadways' website claims, converting all the roads in the U.S. to solar roads would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 75% and produce up to three times the energy we're currently producing. And boy, do we need to implement something dramatic to reduce our carbon footprint.
Photo courtesy of SolaRoad