Sol Mates: Bike Path Makes Clean Energy From Flat Surfaces

Solar power could be the ticket to clean, renewable energy for future generations, but getting a solar energy infrastructure up and running is no small task. The TNO Research Institute, in cooperation with the Province of North Holland, Imtech and the Ooms Avenhorn Group, has come up with a novel way to collect solar power while encouraging commuters to use emissions-free transportation: they are building a solar cycle path.

The bike path is scheduled to be constructed in the town of Krommenie, which is near Amsterdam. It is called SolaRoad, and it will combine the best aspects of earth-friendly transportation and eco-friendly energy. The modular bike path will be made of concrete blocks measuring 1.5 X 2.5 meters and topped with crystal silicon solar cells. Atop the solar cells is a layer of clear protective glass that will let the sun shine through.

SolaRoad is still in development currently, and many criteria need to be met before such a project can be successfully rolled out for the public. The path would have to be sturdy enough to deal with constant traffic, yet effective as a solar collector. The prototype path being built in Krommenie should be completed in 2012 and will teach the project’s coordinators about the needs and challenges associated with the undertaking.

(all images via: TNO)

Once successfully installed, SolaRoads can be used to power street lights, traffic lights and even homes. They can produce up to 50 kWh per square meter per year, so the more bike paths constructed, the more clean energy will be available to a city. It’s a winning prospect for everyone involved, so the hope is that the prototype in Krommenie will be just the beginning of a whole system of solar energy-producing roads, bike paths and other flat surfaces.