World's first solar-powered cycle path to open in Amsterdam

The Dutch love of cycling and innovation will work in tandem from next week when a 70-meter stretch of solar-powered cycle path is opened to the public.

The SolaRoad in Krommenie, Amsterdam will be the world’s first solar-powered public roadway when it is officially unveiled on November 12.

Developed by the Netherlands’ TNO research institute, the project cost an estimated €3 million ($3.7 million) and is fitted with concrete modules measuring 2.5 x 3.5 meters. The modules are tilted slightly to aid water run-off and achieve a better angle to the sun, but are nevertheless 30% less efficient than panels fitted on to a normal rooftop. A non-adhesive finish ensures rain and dirt is washed off easily, ensuring maximum exposure to the crystalline silicon cells, claims TNO.

The path will be extended to 100 meters by 2016, at which point the installation should produce enough solar energy to power three local households. Although currently a small and expensive installation, TNO is hopeful that this small stretch of cycle path can inspire greater innovation and investment in solar-powered solutions, with the institute’s Sten de Wit telling the Guardian newspaper that potentially 140,000 km of Dutch roads – 20% – could be adapted with this technology.

The SolaRoad will primarily act as a testbed for the technology’s durability and future potential. TNO researchers will analyze how it handles heavy traffic, how much energy is generated, what levels of performance are lost and when, and how could the panels be better positioned to further maximize their energy yield.

Earlier this, solar’s disruptive potential captured the public’s imagination in the form of the Solar Roadways project, which saw $2.2 million raised virally to help Idaho couple Julie and Scott Brusaw’s solar-powered road panel prototype become a reality.