May 12, 2015   |   Jake Anderson
May 12, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) Last year, the Netherlands raised some eyebrows with the announcement that they were constructing the first solar-powered bike path. The plan was to use glass-coated solar panels to generate enough energy to bathe the road in light and possibly fulfill additional electricity needs.
This progressive proof of concept — spearheaded by the Netherlands’ TNO Research Institute — is only six months into operation and the results are already outpacing expectations. As of May 11th, 2015, according to ScienceAlert2014.com, the 70-meter test bike path named SolaRoad is annually “generating 3,000 kWh, or enough electricity to power a small household for a year.”
That’s a mere 230 feet of roadway — with the capability of powering an entire home for a full year. The newest goal is to extend the roadway to 328 feet by 2016.
The development took five years. Engineers were able to figure out how to make the solar panels durable enough to withstand the wear and tear of a high traffic bike path while still being able to accurately feed the smart meters outputting the electricity. Partitioned by glass, silicon rubber, and concrete, these panels can support the weight of several 12-tonne fire trucks without sustaining any damage.
Over 150,000 cyclists traveled the path during these six months and the results speak for themselves. The project can now serve as a powerful example for other nations who wish to implement solar-powered bike paths or roadways.
What could this kind of environmentally sound city planning ultimately lead to?
“If all the roads in the US were converted to solar roadways, the country would generate three times as much energy as it currently uses and cut greenhouse gases by 75 percent,” says Philip Oltermann at The Guardian.
Two Americans are already angling to make this lofty aspiration a reality. Scott and Julie Brusaw crowdfunded $2.2 million last year to help fund their Solar Roadways project. While the cost of solar-powered roads is high at the time being, it’s reasonable to think that in the near future, clean electricity derived from such roadways could be a serviceable supplementary source of energy for cities across the country and world.
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