The World's First Solar Road Is a Bike Path in the Netherlands

Illustration for article titled The Worlds First Solar Road Is a Bike Path in the Netherlands

There are only so many roofs in the world, so the Dutch are getting creative about where to put their solar panels. SolaRoad is exactly what it sounds like—solar panels that pull double duty as road surface and electricity generator. And this being the Netherlands, they of course made a solar road for bikes.

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Next week, the Guardian reports, a 230-foot stretch of solar bike path is set to officially open in the suburbs of Amsterdam. Even in the bike haven that is the Netherlands, a $3.75 million (€3 million) bike path is unprecedented. Your usual asphalt is nowhere to be seen; instead, the road surface is a layer of tempered glass protecting crystalline silicon solar cells. The glass has a skid-resistant coating, and it's been tested to withstand falling steel balls.

Underneath all that glass, the solar panels are hooked up to the electric grid. When the bike path is extended to its full 328 feet (100 meters) in 2016, its creators hope it can generate enough electricity each day to power two or three households. Eventually, it could make the sense to use this solar road electricity for traffic signals and street lights.

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In the U.S., Solar Roadways is also developing solar panels for roads—and someday perhaps even highways. This ambitious vision has also been criticized because, well, making and maintaining good roads is hard. Just think about all the potholes you've driven past. It makes sense for SolaRoad to start with a small pilot project for bikes, which are considerably less rough on the road than cars or, god forbid, trailers. This is an experiment, but one worth doing. [SolaRoad via The Guardian]

Top image: SolaRoad

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DISCUSSION

Seems like it would have been cheaper and more effective to build a canopy that covers the bike path and has solar panels on top. Then they wouldn't need to use reinforced panels that are less efficient and it would provide a little protection from rain while allowing the path to be made of a material that doesn't need to be translucent and somehow provide grip. The idea of building a transit path that you want many people to occupy seems to contradict the idea of using this surface for solar panels.