Solaroad opens first solar bike path

Solaroad kids
© Solaroad via twitter

Get those darn kids off the solar bike lane! They're blocking the sun! They're standing on US$ 3.7 million of photovoltaics and precast concrete bike lane, running all of 230 feet, that's going to generate enough energy to supply enough electricity for three houses!

© Solaroad via twitter

Now I don't want to rain on anyone's bicycle parade, but all of the complaints that we had with Scott Brusaw's solar roadway project apply here in spades. The Solaroad people, who built this bike lane in Krommenie, near Amsterdam, admit that because of the angle (lying almost flat), these solar panels will only generate 30% of what a conventional roof mounted panel would produces. They are also protected by heavy textured tempered glass, that probably costs a whole lot more than solar panels do these days.

The Guardian notes that "A non-adhesive finish and a slight tilt are meant to help the rain wash off dirt and thus keep the surface clean, guaranteeing maximum exposure to sunlight," but not everyone thinks that will do the job.

© Solaroad via Gizmodo

On Renewables Magazine, Craig Morris is not so sure, and says "Please, just stop." He questions whether the panels will get anywhere near 30% of a conventional panel.

I’m going to guess that the dirt, tempered glass (to give the path a decent surface for bicycle tires), and shading reduce power production far more, probably by something closer to 100 percent (meaning >65 percent, if you follow my math). Without the roughed up glass, people would probably be falling off their bikes quite frequently.

© Solaroad via twitter

Now I must try and be upbeat and positive about the march of solar progress, and note that a) this is a pilot project, a three year test to see how much energy it can generate and how safe the road is under different energy conditions. b) Solar generation is only one of the things they are ultimately trying to do a much larger, rather grand vision of what a road can do. In this PDF it notes:

© TNO

A solar energy road will offer a unique chance to integrate different functions into the road surface. Sensors gathering information about traffic circulation can help improve traffic management, or even allow automatic vehicle guidance. Other possible functions are variable road markings, ‘tag-along’ LED-lights and heating in winter. And eventually, a system for wireless energy transfer to vehicles.

But I still find it hard to think of a worse place to put solar panels than in the road, except perhaps in my basement floor. More at Solaroad.nl if it is working again.

Youtube/Video screen capture

Dave the engineer doesn't think much of it either. Watch him here, first image not TreeHugger correct, contains a bad word.

Tags: Netherlands | Solar Energy | Solar Gadgets | Solar Technology

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