The World’s First Solar Road
The bike path that connects the Amsterdam suburbs of Krommenie and Wormerveer is popular with both school children and commuters: around 2,000 cyclists ride its two lanes on an average day.
But next week Krommenie’s cycle path promises to become even more useful: on 12 November a 70-metre stretch will become the world’s first public road with embedded solar panels.
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.
Two US engineers, Idaho couple Julie and Scott Brusaw, have been developing solar panelling units for road use since 2006. In 2009, their company Solar Roadways received a contract from America’s Federal Highway Administration to build a prototype.
If all the roads in the US were converted to solar roadways, the Solar Roadways website claims, the country would generate three times as much energy as it currently uses and cut greenhouse gases by 75%.