Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bicyclists: More Power To Them, Ah, From Them

A Dutch town is building a bicycle path with embedded solar panels:

What could make bike riding even more efficient? How about a bike path embedded with solar panels to produce clean energy while encouraging people to get on their bikes? The town of Krommenie in the Netherlands, just north of Amsterdam, will be receiving the SolaRoad bike path, scheduled to open in 2012.

Developed by the Province of North Holland, the Ooms Avenhorn Group and Imtech, the solar bike path will be constructed with a concrete base, topped with a 1 cm thick layer of crystalline silicon solar cells. The solar cells will then be protected by a thick, heavy-duty glass surface strong enough to drive a truck over it. The SolaRoad is estimated to generate 50 kw hours of electricity per square meter per year which will be used to power street lights, traffic systems, and perhaps even households along the SolaRoad system.


Some would object that this is "low-hanging fruit," that 50 kwh/m^2 even if the entire bike path were covered just isn't that much power. But the point is that probably 99 percent of the time, street lights are simply wasted energy: if they can be run essentially for free, that's a saving that adds up over time.

One cyclist commenter objected that glass can be slippery when wet. Having faced everything from sand filling in repairs to deliberately smashed fluorescent tubes tossed off the top of a nearby tall building to drivers of powered off-road vehicles, all on the local bicycle path, I doubt this is much of a problem, especially if the surface can be roughened a bit.

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