Six months ago, a section of bike path in the Netherlands was opened to the public. While only 230 feet long, it's known around the world for being partially constructed out of solar panels. The path serves as a testing ground for a roadway's ability to generate solar energy, and so far the test is going extremely well.
According to Network World, the "road surface acts as a huge photovoltaic panel." The path's solar panels has produced 3,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity since November 2014, which is "enough power to run a one-person household for a year."
In addition, Equipment World reports that the technology has proven capable of generating 70 kilowatt-hours per square meter of road, which is around the "upper limit" predicted by the builders.
The solar panels are encased in concrete, silicon rubber, glass, and a skid-resistant coating. Since the path must be able to absorb sunlight while also being strong enough to support traffic, design has been a challenge. A flat surface such as a bike path is also not ideal for solar panels, which catch the sunlight best when they can be angled as they are in a rooftop setting. This successful test bodes well for future plans, and researchers hope to create panels that can support larger vehicles.
If greater amounts of electricity are produced in future projects, researchers have plenty of ideas for potential uses. For example, vehicles driving over the solar roads might be able to pick up the electricity and power themselves with it. The electricity could also power street lights or be used in a system to monitor traffic.
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