6 Dec 2014

Taking cycleways beyond pedal power

From This Way Up, 12:15 pm on 6 December 2014

Solar cycleway
Image courtesy of SolaRoad

A 70-metre cycleway in the Netherlands has just become the world's first public roadway to be fitted with embedded solar panels.

This small stretch of cycle path will only generate enough power for 2 to 3 homes. But Sten de Wit of SolaRoad, the people behind the technology, says that the Netherlands has more than 150,000 kilometres of cycle lanes and roads.

"We want to scale up to normal roads but a first step in the form of a bicycle road was a good idea because the traffic loads are not that high. We also have some more room for experimentation on a bicycle road and, last but not least, it's a typically Dutch thing to do! We have a lot of bicycle roads."

There are many technical challenges to conquer before you can build a safe road surface using solar panels - for example how much load it can take and how slippery it gets when it rain.

This cycleway, near Krommenie in Zaanstad, North Holland, was built by integrating solar cells into interconnecting pavement panels that measure 2.5 metres by 3 metres. The panels were then fitted together to create the two-lane cycleway.

Meanwhile, Mr de Wit has an ambitious vision; he wants to use the technology to power nearby homes, street lights and electric vehicles driving on the road, taking a "huge step towards energy neutrality".

This Way Up's Simon Morton spoke to Scott Brusaw of Solar Roadways earlier in the year about a similar idea in the US.

This project raised more than US$2 million via crowdfunding to build glass-covered roads containing solar panels and embedded LEDs that could generate power and display road information, and even ads.