The Netherlands is set to become the first country with a solar road that’s open for public use.
While not a regular driving road, the new solar bike lane connecting the Amsterdam suburbs of Krommenie and Wormerveer is the first step in the Netherlands’ plans for going solar.
The solar bike path cost three million euros (approximately $3.75 million USD), and is expected to produce enough energy to power two or three homes. The current 70-meter stretch of roadway is set to open to the public on November 12, 2014, but the local government hopes to expand to 100 meters by 2016.
The road, dubbed SolaRoad by the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), is made up of rows of crystalline silicon solar cells, which were embedded into the concrete of the path and covered with a translucent layer of tempered glass.
Approximately 200,000 cyclists are expected to use the new bike path on an average day, as both school children and commuters see the bike path as a very cool and useful part of their daily commute.
The path is stationary and cannot be adjusted to the position of the sun, so it will unfortunately generate about 30% less energy than rooftop solar panels. However, the road is slightly tilted to provide a better angle to capture the sun’s rays. The road has been treated with a special non-adhesive coating to keep dust and dirt from accumulating and blocking the solar cells.
Since solar energy is an inexhaustible fuel source that is pollution- and often noise-free, many companies are trying to develop new methods of capturing the sun’s rays to offset our reliance on traditional fossil fuels.
SolaRoad is only one of many plans to turn roadways and paths into solar structures. Solar Roadways, developed by Scott Bursaw, are roadways made of photovoltaic panels that would cover asphalt roadways across North America. According to the Solar Roadways website, covering all the roadways in the U.S. with these 15% efficiency panels would produce more than three times the amount of power the U.S. currently uses each year.
But will new solar technologies like SolaRoad be displacing the traditional solar panels used by both homes and businesses? The truth is, there are always new developments and discoveries being made in the solar industry, but not all of them are able to translate into commercial success.
There are companies that have developed solar shingles, solar paint, and many other such technologies, but none have become as commercially viable as traditional solar panels. While this new technology is certainly promising, it will likely take some time before it is perfected, and becomes widely used.