The pace of innovation for solar technologies is staggering – in addition to increases in efficiency and decreases in cost of “market-proven” solar PV, there is also a growing interest in solar technologies that once seemed to come straight out of science fiction. A video about one of these, a solar technology that could be used to pave roads and other surfaces, was featured in the viral video “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways,” which has generated nearly 19 million views on YouTube.
In December, a similar technology became a reality when a solar bike path opened in the Netherlands. Critics of both technologies state that the costs are still far too prohibitive, but as innovations continue to push the boundaries of where solar can be deployed – in windows, as a tarp, in paint, and as part of myriad gadgets – they will become more common and contribute to the modernization of the grid.
World’s First Solar Road Opens in The NetherlandsSustainable Brands, December 9, 2015
The world’s first public road that includes embedded solar cells has opened in the town of Krommenie in the Netherlands, NPR reports.
The crystalline silicon solar cells are encased in two layers of tempered safety glass, set in a concrete housing. The road is a bike commuter path on a special roadway outside Amsterdam. Power generated by the panels will be funneled into the national energy grid.
A company called SolaRoad pre-built the concrete slabs that have been refined in years of testing. It was particularly challenging to produce energy-producing slabs that are both durable and rideable by thousands of cyclists a day, the company told NPR.
The section of the path that opened last month is 230 feet long. SolaRoad says it is a test of an idea that could eventually lead to roads that generate the same power that electric cars use to travel on them. This portion of the path could meet the electrical demands of two or three houses for a year.