If the very idea of producing a solar bike path has urged a fair share of naysayers to see red — as in too many dollars — it has also sparked a growing positive response. Now, with a little data out, the news is that the Dutch solar bike path is generating more electricity than originally planned.
Last November, a solar panel bike path, measuring some 70 meters (230 feet, or over two-thirds the length of an NFL football field), was inaugurated in the Dutch city of Krommenie by a good number of enthusiastic bicyclists. The stretch of bike path, near Amsterdam, was considered a pilot demonstration by SolaRoad, the company that built it.
This particular pilot project is now being hailed as a success because the solar bike path is generating more renewable electricity than anticipated. Several months into the pilot now, it’s become clear that the solar panels are notably outperforming expectations — having already generated 3,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity. All this in spite of the negatives that go with a project like this, including solar panels that lie flat instead of being pitched toward sunlight, as rooftop solar panels are. Add to this list of negatives the shadows cast by bicyclists, which obscure the delivery of many million photons, and end your diatribe by pounding the table while calculating the significant expense, reported by TreeHugger to be near $3.7 million.
On its website, SolaRoad reports that it is “pioneering innovation in the field of energy harvesting.” Going on: “It is a unique concept, which converts sunlight on the road surface into electricity: the road network works as an inexhaustible source of green power. SolaRoad is sustainable and can be used in practice in many different ways.”
The solar bike path was developed with some difficulty, including temperature fluctuations that reportedly caused some de-lamination, due to shrinkage of the skid-resistant coating on the panels. To compensate for this, a coating has been applied over ⅜-inch glass panels that serve to protect the solar cells. That’s not really the point here, though. The bottom line is that it does function well in a space that previously generated no clean electricity, and it brings pleasing smiles to many visionaries.
If an investment was going to be made in a bike path anyway, money would have gone into the materials typically used for that, which don’t produce electricity. In this case, however, the materials produce electricity.
I applaud innovative renewable energy projects such as these, even if they come with limitations and come with a high price tag. Consider what it took to launch the work of the Wright brothers, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford. Also consider how much a solar bike path might encourage people to go and put solar on their roofs or carports.
Photos via SolaRoad