World’s First Solar Bike Path to Open in Netherlands

By Carl Engelking | November 5, 2014 12:59 pm
(Courtesy: SolaRoad)

(Courtesy: SolaRoad)

Dutch bicycle commuters will soon be riding on sunshine — well, kind of.

The Netherlands announced that it is putting the final touches on a 230-foot bike lane that’s constructed with solar panels. The bike path, set to officially open Nov. 12, will be the first publicly accessible solar road in the world.

Harnessing the Sun

The pilot bike lane is just a small segment of a path the runs along a provincial road in the town of Krommenie, which is roughly 15 miles north of Amsterdam. The bike path was built using square concrete modules fitted with solar cells. A one-centimeter-thick layer of tempered glass fits over the top of the cells.

Although the panels may sound delicate, they can handle the weight and pressure of a truck without cracking. But since the panels are in a fixed position, they generate 30 percent less energy than those installed on rooftops. To get the most from the solar path, panels were installed on angles to let the rain wash off dirt.

The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) spearheaded the $3.74-million project, dubbed the SolaRoad. The plan is to extend the bike path to 328 feet by 2016. By then, the path should generate enough power to light three homes.

Test Phase

Now, scientists will monitor the bike path for a three-year period, taking measurements and performing tests along the way. They primarily want to determine how much power the road actually generates, how it stands up to the roughly 2,000 daily riders, and what it’s like to bike on.

But if all goes well, Stan de Wit of the Netherlands TNO believes that up to 20 percent of the Netherlands’ 87,000 miles of roadway could be solarized, the Guardian reports. The solar roads could potentially power anything from traffic lights to electric cars.

Across the Pond

Here in the United States, Julie and Scott Brusaw, engineers from Idaho, are working to mainstream solar roads. They made a big splash earlier this year when their video “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways!” went viral. Since then, they’ve raised over $2.2 million through a crowdsourcing campaign.

They hope to start off small: replacing concrete driveways, bike paths, patios and sidewalks with solar panels. Eventually, they’d like to set their sights on the nation’s highway system.

For now, it looks like the Netherlands is already on that path.

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  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    I’m looking at all those bare roofs, at a fully clouded sky, and at six (seven?) figures’ cost of social engineering. Intent ruins the world. Engineering runs the world.

    Solar cell modules are connected in series, then modules in parallel into panels. If one cell is shaded, its entire module is disabled. What did our mothers tell us about connecting different batteries in parallel? Don’t.

    8% of sunlight is lost at the air-glass interface (no quarter wave anti-reflection coating could survive). More is lost at the glass-cell interface. More output is lost, big time, whenever shade is present (such as being on the path or when the sun is to the left of the trees).

    Smartless social advocacy of mungo, shoddy, and noils.

    • Cameron Knox

      8% of sunshine is not lost at an air-glass interface. It actually changes depending on the thickness of your glass.

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        Reflective loss actually only depends on the two refractive indices of the interfaced media, the angle of illumination, and the polarization of incoming light. It is a large term. Scratching and digging the surface (mineral quartz dust being harder than glass) is very bad. Internal absorbance can be a very small term – all it requires is more money.

        • skyfish

          Al, Al Al… calm down man.

          Solar panels don’t use soda lime glass and they don’t have losses on the back surface because of low refractance adhesives.

          but ur a smart guy, you already knew that… right, Al?

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        Smartless. Normal incidence reflectance R at the interface between two media of refractive indices n1 and n2 is

        R = [(n1 – n2)/(n1 + n2)]^2

        However, light passing through glass is reflected by both the front and back surfaces, then recursively. Total reflectance through a glass window is 2R/(1 + R). At 589 nm (sodium D-lines)

        n1 (air) = 1.000293

        n2 (soda-lime glass) = 1.52

    • Andrew Kiener

      Wow, you sure thought of a lot of things that the applied scientists at the Applied Science Institute clearly accidentally forgot to remember, the big dummies. Why, if they knew as much as you know, they’d probably have decided that it’s useless to study this further. It’s a shame they forgot to remember all that stuff.

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        Follow the money.

        • skyfish

          so… you didn’t like the movie then?

  • Ted Duepner

    I’m with Al on this, seems like being showy is more important than actual efficiency. At best this path will light three homes? BIG DEAL! We could probably all conserve enough energy to light three homes through really simple means as opposed to this. Is this surface even safe to bicycle on in inclement weather?

  • DanielC

    You have to start somewhere, who cares if it’s not efficient enough to light up -n- amount of homes, we are progressing towards a goal, and that is what matters.

    • sandipbhatia

      What’s the goal? Increase toughened glass consumption? At the cost of tax-payers? Just joking, because I think a toughened steel mesh may have done the job much better and at a lower cost. There will certainly be learnings, no doubt on that.

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        Anything done to make a truly stupid idea better makes it worse. We thus understand everything from social activism to the USSR to the US Department of Education.

  • sandipbhatia

    At this point of time its cost ineffective but certainly in due course the utility will not fail to increase the usage especially to serve critical needs such as traffic lights or emergency communication systems.

  • Vincent Wolf

    I can see where producing a road that charges an electric motor on a bicycle to power it and provide easy transport would be a good thing but providing EV power via solar panels is a really stupid idea for most of the reasons already mentioned in comments here. Good for a science project but nothing more. Solar panels should be angled to the sun and to provide quick water runoff, high above the dirt and grime of people’s waste products (and dogs, cats, etc), out of ‘harm’s way’, etc.

  • L p

    First of all, the riders are not actually riding on top of the actual solar panels. They are riding on concrete and the solar panels are the light rectangles positioned down the middle as seen in the photo. Secondly, the article specifically mentions that the panels ARE angled in order to allow run off and is quite open about the fact that this is less efficient (and that hopefully they’ll find a better solution–like a glass coating that never gets dirty: http://phys.org/news/2011-12-glass.html) . Finally, this is a test project, not designed to power homes but designed to help power street lights and the like (eventually) as well as to potentially power, or help power electric cars. In itself, inserting a power grid into our streets isn’t a completely new idea, but the tech had to catch up.

    I’m curious though as to why they didn’t attempt to utilize kinetic energy (like Pavegen Systems, ltd. or PaveGen, which not only can generate electricity but has wireless capability), or to combine this potential power source WITH the solar features. If can work on a disco floor (EcoDisco London, 2008) and on sidewalks, it certainly would make sense on our roads, our highways and our concrete pathways (currently PaveGen is working on durability).

    I’m amazed at all of the naysayers here–it’s a test project which will help determine just how practical something like this might be in the future, Sure there will be bugs to work out, but that’s how you do it. There were plenty of skeptics when it came to wiring cities–and then the country for electricity as well…but the future is in decentralizing as well as expanding our power sources. It can only be a good thing to stop relying on any one type of energy.

    • Jerry3130

      L p, you need to look at the photo closer. They are riding on the panel, which is the left half of the road in this picture. It does look very dusty.
      Angles for run off can be half a percent slope as typically designed in roadway, not 10-40% the optimal angle in most places.
      IT doesn’t matter what it want to power, street light or house, if it’s inefficient, it is a failure.
      I am amazed there are people cheering for that. Seems to me some scientists are using public money for their personal gain.
      This could be the only explanation to me.

  • Jerry3130

    I have been searching on website on any potential benefit or at least a little scientific explanation about this project. The only argument I can find is that this is an experiment. Amazing how this kind of project can actually happen, millions got wasted. I hope someone probably got rich in doing this, pocketing most of the 3 million, then it’s at least not a total waste.

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