There's just something appealing about the idea of a solar-powered road. Letting that ugly ribbon through the countryside generate power, interact smartly with cars, bikes and pedestrians and even charging up your electric car. It all just seems magical, doesn't it? Well, yes, which is why there are so many critics of a small (230 feet), $3.7 million solar bike path test space that was just installed in Holland.

Treehugger has rounded up a good collection of reasons why putting solar into roadways isn't a great idea, most reasonably that you can generate a lot more electricity is you just throw traditional panels up onto a nearby roof instead of making special "heavy textured tempered glass" that will get scuffed up and dirty. Even the people behind the Solaroad bike lane test admit that, compared to a rooftop solar setup of the same size, the bike path will only generated 30 percent as much power.

But TNO, which is supporting the project, says that we should perhaps let this test play out, because this is about more than simply providing power:

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.

That dream is powerful. You can read more in this PDF and the press release below.
Show full PR text
SolaRoad opens

The first road in the world that converts sunlight into electricity is ready for use
Haarlem, 21 October 2014

The SolaRoad pilot road has been opened this week. SolaRoad is a road surface that acts as a solar panel. SolaRoad will be officially opened on the 12th of November by Minister Kamp. This is the first road in the world that converts sunlight into electricity. SolaRoad was developed by TNO, the Province of North-Holland, Ooms Civiel and Imtech Traffic&Infra.

Road surface that converts sunlight into energy
The pilot road of just a hundred metres consists of concrete modules each of 2.5 by 3.5 metres. Solar cells are fitted in one travelling direction underneath a tempered glass top layer which is approximately 1-cm thick. There are no solar cells on the other side of the road and this is used to test various top layers. In time, the solar power from the road will be used for practical applications in street lighting, traffic systems, electric cars (which drive on the surface) and households. This first section of

SolaRoad is located in Krommenie, along the provincial road N203, next to the Texaco garage on the railway track side (GPS data: 52.493875, 4.767134).

Test period
For a three-year period, various measurements will be taken and tests performed to enable SolaRoad to undergo further development. The tests must answer questions such as: How does it behave in practice? How much energy does it produce? and What is it like to cycle over? In the run-up to the surface being laid, the road was tested in the laboratory to ensure that it fulfils all (safety) requirements for road surfaces.

Official opening on the 12th of November
SolaRoad will be officially opened on Wednesday the 12th of November by Minister Kamp.

More information
For more information about SolaRoad take a look at www.solaroad.nl/en/
Also follow SolaRoad on social media: Twitter: @SolaRoadNL Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/solaRoadNetherlands

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