The SolaRoad is the world's first bike path made from solar panels, and is a prototype project testing the feasibility of various proposals for smart highways. The 72-metre (236 ft) path opened in the week of 21 October 2014, and was designed by a consortium of organizations, which built the pathway in Krommenie, Netherlands.
The path was formally opened in November 2014 by the Dutch Minister of Energy Henk Kamp.
The technology was developed by a consortium consisting of Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), Imtech (Dynniq) and Ooms Civiel, with a grant of €1.5 million from the province (county) North Holland as owner of the path. The total cost of the pilot project was €3.5 million. In addition to the €1.5 million from the province North Holland were that contributions from TNO, Ooms Civil, Imtech (Dynniq) and the European PV-Sin project (partly subsidized by the Dutch government).
The road surface consists of prefabricated panels with a surface of 1 centimetre (0.39 in) thick hardened glass. Beneath the glass solar cells are installed. TNO states that this energy can be used for lighting of the road, traffic lights and road signs. The energy is also delivered to local dwellings. TNO thinks in future electrical vehicles might be driven by the road itself. This prototype will be studied over the next three years.
Problems and critics
- The panels might get dirty, because they are lying flat. Mud, snow, etc. might accumulate on the surface.
- The panels cannot be tilted for highest efficiency, which can be done in a roof installation.
- Cyclists will block the sunlight when passing.
- The costs are considered high (3–4 times solar panels on a roof and a conventional pavement layer; about $1000–1400 per 1-square-metre (11 sq ft))($90–125 sq ft). This will result in a payback time of over 50 years.
- With a price of $1,200 per sqm, a yield of 70 kWh per sqm / year and a lifetime of 20 years a kWh price of $0.86 can be calculated. Compared to an offshore windfarm the cost are 4x higher (average kWh price $0.19). As comparison conventional electricity costs are around $0.05 per kWh.
- High costs for grid connection, which has to be (over) dimensioned for peak loads only in the summer.
- Total environmental impact during the lifetime (LCA) is expected to be negative, because of the negative contribution of the reinforced concrete slabs and the epoxy top coating layer in combination with the relatively small amount of produced electricity.
- SolaRoad could put environmental progress in the slow lane, because of the high costs of this invention.
Results of trial
After a six-month test engineers report results are "better than expected". "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 company that put it in.
The EEVblog compared the 6 and 12 months trial results from SolaRoad with data from 3 rooftop solar systems within a few kilometers of the prototype road. The data showed that rooftop solar systems produced twice the output of the SolaRoad per square meter over the same period.
In October 2016, the path was expanded with 7 new improved elements. Two elements of the first generation were removed. In total the expanded path consist of 32 elements (83 meters).
Trials heavy traffic
As a follow-up to the bicycle path in Krommenie, two heavy traffic pilots were constructed early March 2019 (100 meter in Spijkenisse and 50 meter in Haarlemermeer). After a week, these pilots were closed to traffic due to problems with the top layer. In July 2019 it was decided to stop the project in Spijkenisse, the Solaroad is beyond repair.
An innovative cycle lane in South Korea has a solar powered roof, providing shelter from sun and rain for cyclists while generating electricity. In this concept the solar panels are directed in the most profitable position for optimal efficiency. The 32 km (20 mile) path between Daejeon and Sejong runs down the middle of a six-lane motorway.
Another economically viable solution for harvesting energy from roads is Road Energy Systems (RES). This system is based on solar water heating and could easily be placed in a road without changing its appearance.
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