Dear BEST members:

The Netherlands continues their sustainable innovations with the world’s first solar road.  SolaRoad opened to the public last week in a small town of Krommenie, located approximately 15 miles northwest of Amsterdam.  SolaRoad is a 230-foot long bike path that collects solar energy by day and lights up by night.  The significance of such a brilliant innovation may not be appreciated in the US since we have relatively few cyclists.  However, the Netherlands is well known for its tremendous network of “fietspaden” (bike paths) as bikes are the primary mode of transportation for the Dutch.  There are more than 13 million bikes for a population of 16.5 million people (nearly one bike per person).  And for those of you that have spent time in Northern Europe in the winter months, you recognize that darkness comes around 4:00PM so lighted bike paths are essential for the commute home from work. 

Not only does SolaRoad provide lighting for commuters, but this small stretch of solar road is expected to generate enough electricity to power two or three average homes annually.  SolaRoad consists of concrete modules overlain with tempered glass and embedded with silicon solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity.  Although the design is less efficient than solar panels on rooftops, the potential surface area on all roadways in the Netherlands is enough to motivate the research.  SolaRoad is a pilot-project that will be researched and optimized over the next three years.  The project is a collaboration among businesses, researchers and the local government and has a price tag of 3.7 million dollars.

Wendy Mussoline, PhD, PE
Post-doc in Bioenergy and Sustainability Technology Lab