Clean Power

Published on October 17th, 2013 | by Nicholas Brown


Introducing The World’s First Solar Sidewalk

October 17th, 2013 by  

Originally published on Solar Love.

As part of the Solar Walk project, a photovoltaic solar sidewalk has been constructed at the Virginia Science Technology Campus of George Washington University (GWU/GW).

This BIPV project, according to GWU, is only 100 square feet, but it still qualifies as a step towards solar walkways. The concept still has to be tested thoroughly, of course — the designers of this walkway will be evaluating how walkway performs under various real-world conditions.

“The solar sidewalk is a great example of GW’s commitment to innovation in design and sustainability and will be a reference for others to follow,” said Onyx Solar Vice President of Business Development Diego Cuevas.

Solar Walk

Solar Sidewalk.
Image Credit: GWU

This walkway can generate 400 watts of power (maximum) from 27 semi-transparent, slip-resistant, glass solar panels. That is enough to power the 450 LED lights underneath the panels. The solar walkway is designed to withstand 882 pounds (400 kg) of weight, according to Onyx Solar.

“We are excited to explore the potential of this newly patented product and participate with Onyx in its goal of furthering unique photovoltaic technologies,” said GW Senior Land Use Planner Eric Selbst

According to SolarReviews: “The PV-powered trellis along the Solar Walk was completed in 2012 and was designed by Studio39 Landscape Architecture. The solar electricity generated by the PV array on the trellis is fed to GWU’s Innovation Hall. The architecture firm said it was the first trellis in a new master plan at the campus that would reduce the amount en/ergy that the campus consumes from the grid.”

The solar modules are raised off the ground to avoid issues with standing water.

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About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is:

  • Jack Ryan

    It would be interesting if they could find a way to use Disney’s digital paper technology ( ) in roads. Cars driving over the pavement/paper would generate electricity via friction which could potentially power street lights.

    • Wayne Williamson

      If you’ve ever been to Disney World in Orlando, replacing the concrete with these could probably power the whole park;-)

      • Bob_Wallace

        The one time I went to one of those Disney places the walks were covered with people standing in line for hours in order to access rides that took short minutes.

  • It’s an idea.

    When the wheel first came out, I’m sure a lot of people said it would never go anywhere, same as postal systems, paper money, automobiles and air travel.

    The first “horseless carriage” is a far cry from the latest Corvette or Mercedes, but the car started from an idea, just as the other things I mentioned above.

    Ideas are powerful things.

    So we have some technical challenges — just like Henry Ford did back in his day. Slippery sidewalks ought to be handled with our great technology that we congratulate ourselves on daily. It’s a wonder that we haven’t broken all our arms patting ourselves on the back over our great technological advancements!

    Yet, when a slippery walkway comes up, it gets declared a non-starter! It is a minor technological challenge.

    Imagine IF every sidewalk, walkway and path in every city and town, that is now concreted (as you know, the making of concrete is one of the dirtiest industries) and instead, would be made from some type of plastic or glass and solar panels underneath — and could be done so economically!

    I say this technological challenge can be solved. Hey, we sent men to the Moon! How hard can it be to make non-slippery plastic or non-slip glass and make it cost competitive with the concrete business?

    Don’t forget about the externality costs of concrete manufacture.

    Anyways, millions of megawatts of electricity could be produced by the very sidewalks we use every day. More energy could be produced, than we would need.

    Look what Henry Ford started all those years ago, and with very low technology.

    Cheers! We can do it! JBS

  • Kyle Field

    While I don’t agree with this particular implementation of solar…it’s still a better one than those terrible $4 LED garden lights that only last a season before they are damaged with water/are eaten by the lawn mower/batteries die/gophers bring them underground for their own use only to realize they are powered by the sun…anyways. yeah, another bunky “let’s put solar EVERYWHERE” ideas…

  • C-mon man…

  • Marion Meads

    Like solar powered roads, these are not appropriate technologies. I agree that it is best to mount the panels above you, to provide shade and also cover from the rain. The price difference wouldn’t be that much.

  • anderlan

    Is this really cheaper and more effective than just mounting them above the walkway? I figure you lose at least an hour of production every day during class changes (heavy traffic). Also you got to make them take the weight and beating, etc, etc.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Cleaning and surface marring/scratching have to be greater with underfoot mounting.

      • Ronald Brakels

        The piece mentions that there are hundreds of lights under the walkway, so I think its purpose is to look pretty rather than be a cost effective solar collecting surface.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I’m just having trouble imagining walking across “slip resistant” glass when it’s wet or there’s some snow/frost on the ground. Smooth finish concrete can be a problem.

          If it works, great, but I need to see data….

          • Ronald Brakels

            I’ve probably walked across something like that in Japan. But then the footpaths in Japan can be terribly slippery and dangerous. Living in a culture where people sue at the drop of a hat or a fall on the behind definitely can have its disadvantages, but they do tend to be a societies with safer footpaths.

      • Matt

        Don’t forget that salt be ground into it in the winner. Besides being a “fun” engineering project for the school. I have to think that the covered walk way works out better cheaper, put gives walkers so rain protection and shade.

    • agelbert

      Agreed. Many campuses all over the world have covered paths from building to building (particularly where it snows) that are the best place to put PV panels.

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