Solar Cycle Lane: Ride your Bike on a Solar Panel
Solar panels have the potential to generate enough electricity to power entire cities, but they also require a lot of space. Rooftops or open fields are not the only places, where we can install solar panels.
Cities are by definition crowded places. It is not easy to find space for the installation of solar panels. Recognizing this problem, some engineers started to think outside the box. What other spaces could we use to install solar panels? In the urban context, can you think of a large space that is available and that receives a huge amount of sunlight everyday?
Yes, roads and pavements. That’s a good answer!
In the Netherlands, you can now ride over solar panels without knowing you are doing it. Since November 2014, Amsterdam has the first solar cycle lane in the world. The idea is to transform a space used every day by more than 2,000 people in a power plant. In this post, we analyze this case study to understand how solar cycle lanes work.
Solar cycle lane: 70 meters can supply 2 households
Imagine getting out in the morning to ride your bike for an hour or two. The sun shines high in the sky, it is a nice day and around you everybody is waking up to a new day. The bike glides smoothly along a path without mishaps and stones. Later, when you return home, you take a good hot bath knowing that while you were riding solar energy was being produced beneath the tires of your bike.
This is the dream of the SolaRoad project. Since 2010, the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) has sought investment for and developed the idea of a solar cycle lane. Today, that dream is real: a stretch of the cycle lane that connects the suburbs of Amsterdam, between Krommenie and Wormerveer, is now covered with solar panels instead of asphalt. And again, let’s remember that around 2,000 cyclists ride it on a regular day!
Making a solar path means that a great amount of solar energy wasted every day on asphalt roads can now be harnessed. Besides that, the space occupied by the project can be used in more than one way.
The solar cycle lane is in a pilot phase and the energy produced along 70 meters is being fed into the national electricity grid. The results are positive: the project can produce an amount of energy equivalent to the amount used by more than two households.
Another feature of the solar cycle lane is its non-adhesive finish and its slight tilt. Thinking of days of rain and even snow, engineers found a way to keep the surface clean, ensuring that it is can always absorb the sunlight.
However, there is also a disadvantage that must be pointed out: the path cannot be adapted to the sun’s position. This is a limitation that is reflected in the solar energy production levels. The solar cycle lane produces 30% less power than a well adjusted solar panel on the roof. TNO expects that the variance decreases when the path is extended up to 100 meters in 2016.
But 100 meters is nothing compared to the 140,000 km of road that could potentially be solar adapted in the Netherlands. TNO intends to turn at least 20% of this into solar roads. The solar cycle lane is only the beginning of a great project to turn the Netherlands into a very sustainable country.
The solar cycle lane is funded by local authorities and it is estimated, to date, that it has cost already 3 million euros (205 million Indian rupees).
Although this is the first solar cycle lane in the entire world, the concept of replacing the asphalt of solar panels is not new. In the United States, the Brusaw couple has won thousands of small “crowd” investors for its solar roadways project. To know more about this, you can also read our post “Learn About Solar Roadways that Generate Solar Power”.