Who can forget the headline hogging news during 2014 that concerned Nederland’s building the first, working solar road in the world. This solar road is actually an energy-generating bike path which has been paved with solar panels coated with glass.
Six months later, team engineers are pleased to announce that the trial has met and surpassed initial expectations. The 70m bike path manages to generate 3000 kWh which is more than enough power to run a small home for almost a year.
If these numbers are converted into an annual yield, expectations would yield more than 70kWh per square metre annually. This is confirmed by Sten de Wit, spokesman for SolaRoad, the group behind the project. Imagine the impact if all roads were covered, the results would be beyond amazing!
The future of solar power
Such out-of-the-box thinking is what got many people interested in Solar Roadways during 2014. This crowd funded project planned to power up all the roads within America with solar panels. Netherland is the pioneering country that actually managed to bring the idea into fruition with its installation in Krommenie.
Australian Solar Quotes editor, Darryn Van Hout says “Solar roadways could replace the conventional technology that is used today within the next twenty years”. Does this mean that the good old 250W panel will soon be the new fax machine? Only time will tell. Van Hout also states that the barriers that the technology face include safety, maintenance, affordability and change.
The PV panels within this project are placed in between two sheets of glass, silicon, rubber and concrete, allowing them to be durable enough to have a 12-tonne fire truck drive on it without any mishaps or damage. Each and every panel is connected to modern solar smart metres, allowing for optimisation of output while feeding its electricity directly into street light fixtures or back into the grid.
“If one panel is broken or in shadow or dirt, it will only switch off that individual solar panel,” said Jan-Hendrik Kremer, Renewable Energy Systems consultant at technology company Imtech. The micro-inverter technology used in the application creates seamless energy production, even in the event of a faulty solar panel. Engineers on the team spent close to five years developing and ensuring that the entire system is long-lasting and dependable.
Stan Klerks, a scientist at Dutch research group TNO – the parent company, which came up with SolaRoad – has stated; “We made a set of coatings, which are robust enough to deal with the traffic loads but also give traction to the vehicles passing by.”
As more than 150,000 cyclists cycled over these panels throughout the duration of the trial, only one defect could be picked up – a small piece of the coating, providing grip for the surface began to wear away due to varying temperature fluctuations. SolaRoad are now working on improving the faulty of the coating.
These particular panels have a similar lifetime span as today’s rooftop solar panels. (Lifespan of at least twenty five years) The team ensured that the design of the solar panels include allowing minimal light in, which results in an extending its life span.
The success of this trial is important for the future of solar power, as its been proved that the roads could generate more than enough power to run local homes, but they also provide great lighting substitutes at the same time.
During 2014 a solar road was constructed in the Nederland’s by Studio Roosegaarde, which absorbed the Sun’s rays throughout the day whilst lighting up the pathway for cyclists during the night, all the while utilising Vincent Van Gogh ‘Starry Starry Night- inspired LED lights.
SolaRoads have begun working hand in hand with the local communities and councils throughout the country in order to roll out this technology into various provinces, while a similar contract has been put forward and agreed upon in California. The future of solar certainly is looking very bright.
Graphic design by Katherine Simons