The Path to Solar

A Dutch consortium is experimenting with the idea of generating electricity from solar paneled roads. But they are starting small and with something they have in abundance – bicycle paths.

The company “SolaRoad” has created the first solar bike path just outside of Amsterdam. The path consists of a concrete surface with tough, embedded solar panels, protected by a durable transparent coating that
still allows for the conversion of sunlight into electricity.

Since the panels lay flat and can’t be adjusted for optimal sun exposure, they only have 75% of normal efficiency. Yet, this initial bike path, spanning just 230 feet long, produced 3,000 kilowatt-hours of energy within the first year. This was enough to power three average size homes – a huge success for the project.

After more study and research, two more solar paths were launched in the Netherlands with newer, thinner panels to reduce wear and tear.
Similar projects were also started in France.

“SolaRoad’s” next task is to drive down the total cost of its road surface over its lifespan, to be comparable with conventionally paved surfaces. Consistent improvements in technology are helping to make that a reality.

The company is primarily focused on lightly used paved areas that avoid shade and suffer less wear and tear. This reduces costs and extends the life of the solar paths. These solar path options could extend to access roads, emergency lanes, and service areas as well.

SolaRoad is now working with the State of California on a pilot project and has launched a “SolaRoad Kit” to empower anyone in the world to create their own solar paths– in business parks, courtyards, town squares, or footpaths. The kit can provide energy for lighting, heating, Wi-Fi access or a charging point for mobile devices

This simple harnessing of our sunlight is paving a brighter future for solar energy everywhere.