Solar Bike Paths Are a Thing

Wouldn’t it be awesome if all our paths doubled as solar energy generation panels? And how about if we could power up our vehicles with the solar power it creates? In 2009 these questions heralded  the start of this vision: the large-scale generation of solar renewable energy from a  450 km2 surface through solar bike paths. From then to now they have realized the first surface that captures sunlight and converts it into electricity. SolaRoad’s ultimate aim is to “pave” large parts of the road surface in Netherlands acting as as a large solar panel. They can then use the electricity produced for street lighting, traffic systems, domestic usage, and for electric vehicles.

Solar Bikepath Innovation

Innovator Sten de Wit of TNO, one of the partners in SolaRoad, had this to say about the combination of road and solar cells.

“This could be a breakthrough in the field of sustainable energy supply. In particular, if the road concept will develop into a system, with which the generated electricity is transported to the vehicles driving on the road. 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.”

Around one year after SolaRoad put down this novel solar-paneled in Krommenie, Netherlands,  the results are surprising the designers. As a result SolaRoad are hopeful the path’s out-performance of expectations  can encourage adoption of the concept. Not only is this driving road traffic safety and motivating people to bicycle rather than take their cars, but it gives local councils and authorities a possible way to generate income from cheap and sustainable energy.

The possibilities for pavements, bicycle lanes and highways everywhere is quite astonishing. Currently solar panels are much cheaper and it takes about 15 years for SolaRoad to recoup the investment but this is indeed a step in the right direction. Technology will naturally come down in price as demand rises.

One thing is for certain – local areas which invest in solar bike paths can expect  to garner support from ecologically minded businesses and residents. They can also provide electricity for streetlights, providing one other stacking function for this idea.

SolaRoad are now in the process of refining and developing the concept. It will be interesting to see how it develops. 

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