SolaRoad

SolaRoad is a pioneering innovation in the field of energy harvesting. It is a unique concept, which converts sunlight on the road surface into electricity: the road network works as an inexhaustible source of green power. SolaRoad is a project of TNO, Provence of Noord-Holland, Imtech Traffic&Infra and Ooms Civiel.

The idea

Wouldn’t it be nice if our roads act like solar panels? And if we could drive our vehicles with the solar power generated by this? In 2009, these questions formed the beginning of a vision for the future: the large-scale generation of renewable energy with the sunlight that falls on 450 km2 road surface every day. In 2009, TNO was present on the innovation-estafette with an open invitation: ‘Dream it and join in’. The Province of Noord-Holland, road construction company Ooms Civiel and technical service provider Imtech accepted the invitation and now form – together with TNO – the core consortium that is developing SolaRoad: the first road surface that absorbs sunlight and converts it into electricity. The ultimate goal is the realization of the dream that large parts of the road surface in the Netherlands will act as a large solar panel. The generated electricity can be used for street lighting, traffic systems, households and electric vehicles.

Development

SolaRoad is being developed in stages. After a technical-economical feasibility study, a first prototype was developed in 2010 and it has been tested extensively in the laboratory. The results raised questions and revealed some points for improvement, but at the same time they were so promising that in 2011 it was decided to further develop SolaRoad.

The first milestone is the SolaRoad cycle path near Krommenie as a pilot. The path was opened on November 12th by Minister Kamp of Economic Affairs and Deputee Elisabeth Post.

Simultaneously with the development of the cycle path, R&D projects on specific elements are taking place, as well as laboratory and field experiments.

Throughout the project, alternative options are being examined for both the solar cells and the glass. When new developments in the field of solar technology are announced, they will be incorporated in the project. Smart ICT applications should distribute the energy production on days with lots of sunshine as efficiently as possible, in order to compensate for the moments without or with less light. Other potential applications for the generated energy will be investigated during the pilot as well.

Future

Imagine that roads all over the world will supply power to homes, streetlights, street lighting and traffic lights. They might even supply power to the vehicles driving over the roads. With SolaRoad, this will be possible. This is the road of the future and the road to the future.

Technology

The idea behind SolaRoad is simple: sunlight falling on the road surface is absorbed by solar cells and converted into electricity – the road surface acts as a large solar panel. The electricity generated in this way will find practical applications in street lighting.

Modules

SolaRoad is being developed as prefabricated slabs. It consists of concrete modules of 2.5 by 3.5 meters with a translucent top layer of tempered glass, which is about 1 cm thick. Underneath the glass are crystalline silicon solar cells. The top layer immediately shows an important difference from the traditional road surface. It has to be translucent for sunlight and repel dirt as much as possible. At the same time, the top layer must be skid resistant and strong enough in order to realize a safe road surface. This is one of the technical challenges of SolaRoad.

Development process

It is clear that SolaRoad must meet the requirements that apply to regular cycling paths, such as stiffness and comfort. SolaRoad is still under further development. This is done in pilot projects, in knowledge development projects on specific areas and testing of components both in the laboratory and in the field. Research in the field of prefabrication techniques, materials, energy, (social) business model, but also questions that arise from cyclists (eg possible use fear) are on the program. The next step in this process is the pilot at the N203 in Krommenie (the Netherlands). In addition, we continually search for industrial partners for specific components and customers for renewable electricity, wishing to participate in the pilot and / or the consortium.
 

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