Solar bike paths could shore up the sustainability of Australian cities by generating clean, renewable energy while helping to foster the usage of emissions free forms of transportation.
The trial run of solar photovoltaic bike lane in the Netherlands has proved highly successfully at generating power for surrounding facilities while also serving as a transit route for cyclists.
The SolaRoad was first unveiled in the Dutch town of Krommenie just over a year ago, consisting of a functional road surface installed with photovoltaic panels that are capable of harvesting solar radiation for energy generation purposes.
The road material itself consists of prefabricated concrete slabs measuring 2.5 by 3.5 metres, equipped with crystalline silicon solar cells beneath a layer of tempered glass on their uppermost surface. The key the success of the SolarRoad lies in this tempered glass, which possesses sufficient transparency to permit the passage of sunlight to the solar cells beneath it, yet is also durable enough to withstand the full weight of careening cyclists.
Following a year of operation SolaRoad's developers have posted performance results significantly ahead of initial projections, due to overestimation of the impacts of adjacent shade and ambient pollution. The bike path has proven capable of producing 9,800 kilowatt hours of energy, equivalent to the electricity consumption of three households over the course of an entire year.
It should be noted that the trial version of the SolaRoad came with a hefty price tag of around $3.7 million - at first blush an exorbitant amount to pay for a bike path that can only satisfy the energy needs of a several homes.
The SolaRoad's successful test run nonetheless serves as proof of the viability of functioning roads that are capable of generating enough energy to partially offset the costs of their initial construction and ongoing maintenance needs.
Once the economics of the technology improve, the bike lanes will strong potential for deployment in Australia's major population centres given the country's sun-drenched climate, as well as the ongoing push for increased walkability and amenability to bicycle usage in urban environments, as part of efforts to improve road congestion and cut down on fossil fuel emissions.