SolaRoad Netherlands

SolaRoad has operated for a year and produced more power than expected.

A year ago the Dutch town of Krommenie made bicycling even greener by opening a bike path composed of solar panels. This had never been done before, so it was anyone’s guess whether it would succeed as either a path or an energy source. Now the results are in, and they’re not too shabby.

The solar bike path has generated 9,800 kilowatt-hours of energy, according to an update posted on the project’s website. That’s enough to power three households for a year. What’s even more impressive is that, as SolaRoad’s Sten de Wit explained to Fast Company, the results exceeded what the creators were expecting: Their lab assessments of how things like pollution and shade from people using the paths would affect the solar generation led them to underestimate the output.

The success of this pilot lends credence to a broader movement to build infrastructure that promotes a more sustainable society. Since we already need roads to get around, why not also draw some energy from them? That same goal motivated the Idaho-based inventors behind the similarly named Solar Roadways, who are working on parking lots and streets made of modular solar panels, not to mention the U.K. government’s tests of highways that can recharge electric vehicles as they drive.

It’s worth noting that the price tag, originally estimated at $3.7 million, makes SolaRoad an expensive way to get a small amount of electricity. But as a proof of concept the news is reassuring: this isn’t some harebrained scheme, but a practical way to produce nontrivial amounts of power. And whereas most roads cost more over the years as they require maintenance for wear and tear, solar roads pay off their costs simply by existing.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    From the Ruins of a Retail Meltdown, Post-Industrial Playgrounds Emerge

    While its shuttered department stores cause headaches around the U.S., Sears’s massive 1920s warehouses represent a triumph of post-industrial urbanism.

  2. A toxic site in Niagara Falls, New York, seen from above.
    Environment

    The Toxic 'Blank Spots' of Niagara Falls

    The region’s “chemical genies” of the early 20th century were heralded as reaching into the future to create a more abundant life for all. Instead, they deprived future generations of their health and well-being.

  3. A Soviet map of London, labeled in Russian.
    Maps

    The Soviet Military Secretly Mapped the Entire World

    These intricate, curious maps were supposed to be destroyed. The ones that remain reveal a fascinating portrait of how the U.S.S.R. monitored the world.

  4. Escalators are pictured.
    Design

    The Mall Isn't Dead, It's Just Changing

    Hong Kong figured out how to make shopping malls a sensible part of the urban fabric. Can this model go global?

  5. A collage of postcards and palms trees of the Florida shore
    Environment

    The Archaeologists Saving Miami's History From the Sea

    As the water level rises, more than 16,000 historic sites across Florida are at risk of being drowned by waves. In Miami-Dade County, researchers are working to keep history on solid ground.