In a world first, Dutch Research institute TNO have designed a bike path than is 70 metres in length and is embedded with solar panels, harnessing the suns energy while at the same time providing a cycle lane that benefits its users in more ways than one.
The aptly named "Sola Road" is made up of crystalline silicon solar cells that are embedded within concrete and then covered in a thin one centimetre layer of tempered glass, then complimented with a thin layer of plastic grip to stop cyclists or pedestrians from slipping. The coating also helps to keep the surface of the lane clean to maximise the exposure to sunlight, and with a slight tilt added to the concrete slabs water and dirt are less likely to accumulate on the surface.
Some have questioned the cycle lanes power productivity due to its location at a surface level, rather than tilted towards the sun. Though the lane loses out on some of the suns rays the lane way still boasts 70% of the power that a residential house can garner with the same amount of rays.
Currently at its total length of 230 ft (with plans for the lane to be extended to 328 ft by 2016) the total output of energy is about enough to power 2 homes. Once the extension has been completed the power out put will be enough to power 3 residential homes. Imagine this on a bigger scale and the opportunities are truly unlimited.
The total price for the project is $6 million NZ dollars, but should the project prove successful, with early signs already suggesting very positive results, the costs of extending and building similar roads across the Netherlands would decrease dramatically as production moved forwards.
The opportunities that are provided by this new and exciting technology are very real and attainable, from street and traffic lights powered by roads, to residential and business buildings powered by the pavement, it's a truly revolutionary step forward for solar industry.
A country such as New Zealand, with long daylight hours and rich amounts of sunlight, coupled with a national pastime of riding bicycles, we should be watching how the Netherlands rolls out this new technology, and eagerly push for the roads to be installed here.