Imagine a world where snow never hinders the roadways, your sidewalk never needs shoveling again, your air is cleaner, roads never need paving again, all the roadways are illuminated at night, and your electricity bill helps pay itself. That might sound like sci-fi fantasy, but it could be reality in a world that builds solar roadways. The world’s first solar bike path was installed in the Netherlands last November, and is now outperforming all expectations.
With further plans to embed solar panels into the country’s 140,000 km of road to power everything from traffic lights to electric cars, solar roadways are beginning to look like the road to the future. Now, six months into the trial, engineers say the system is working even better than expected, with the 70-meter test bike path generating 3,000 kWh, which is enough electricity to power a small household for a year.
The surprisingly durable roadway solar panels are layered between glass, concrete, and silicon rubber. The panels are strong enough to support a 12 ton fire truck without damage, with each individual panel connecting to a smart meter to optimize output and feed electricity directly into the power grid, street lighting or any other uses needed. The panels can even be shut off individually if damaged and replaced, cutting tax dollars spent on road construction and repair. The panels are even designed to withstand up to 20 years, which is roughly how often roads need repaved.
The potential is pretty huge. Not only could the roads generate enough electricity to power local households, but they can also provide some amazing lighting opportunities, as well as thousands of jobs in the economy. Last year a solar road was installed in the Netherlands by design lab Studio Roosegaarde, which sucked up the sun’s energy during the day and then guided cyclists at night using beautiful Vincent Van Gogh Starry Starry Night– inspired LED lights.
More than 150,000 cyclists rode over the solar panels during the trial, and so far they’ve only noticed one fault – a small section of a coating, which provided grip to the surface, has become delaminated due to temperature fluctuations. The team at SolaRoad is now working to improve this coating. Two U.S. engineers, Idaho couple Julie and Scott Brusaw, have been developing solar paneling 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. Now harboring great success with the first solar roadway constructed, the Brusaws have a video going viral.
These solar roadways can cut down on pollution, are made mostly of recycled materials, and can even help to power the neighborhood. 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%. Hopefully with this new technology, we can all see a brighter road to the future.
Featured image compliments of Indegogo.com