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Living Green - A promising test for solar roadways.
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Friday, May 15, 2015
The idea of solar roadways popped up a few years ago and since then there has been a lot of optimism and a lot of criticism about them.
There are huge engineering hurdles to overcome, and they may never replace asphalt and concrete as the primary surfacing materials, but there is a future for solar roadways based upon some practical, real world testing they have been doing in the Netherlands.
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In its first six months of existence, the world's first solar road is performing even better than developers thought.
The road, which opened in the Netherlands in November of last year, has produced more than 3,000 kilowatt-hours of energy - enough to power a single small household for one year.
"If we translate this to an annual yield, we expect more than the 70kwh per square meter per year," Sten de Wit, a spokesman for the project dubbed SolaRoad. "We predicted this as an upper limit in the laboratory stage. We can therefore conclude that it was a successful first half year."
The 230-foot stretch of road, which is embedded with solar cells that are protected by two layers of safety glass, is built for bike traffic, a use that reflects the road's environmentally-friendly message and the cycling-heavy culture of the Netherlands. However, the road could withstand heavier traffic if needed, according to one of the project's developers.
So far, about 150,000 cyclists have ridden over the road. Arian de Bondt, director of Ooms Civiel, one of the companies working on the project, said that the developers were working on developing solar panels that could withstand large buses and vehicles.
Though the Netherlands' solar road seems to be going as planned, solar roads overall typically aren't as effective at producing energy as solar arrays on a house or in a field. That's because the panels in solar roads can't be tilted to face the sun, so they don’t get as much direct sunlight as panels that are able to be tilted. However, solar roads don't take up vast tracts of land, like some major solar arrays do, and they can be installed in heavily-populated areas.
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