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Energy producing SolaRoad: from cycle path to motorway

SolaRoad, a road equipped with solar panels that generate electricity, is entering a new phase. After successful application in a bicycle path, it is now the turn of motorways. The provinces of Noord- and Zuid-Holland will use the SolaRoad surface in roads with heavy traffic, such as buses and trucks. TNO will monitor the performance and energy yields of the solar panels for three years.

For Noord-Holland this is the second project with a road that captures sunlight and converts it into electricity. The first SolaRoad in 2014 was a cycle path near Krommenie, 70 metres of which was equipped with TNO technology, developed together with road builder Strukton and technical service provider Dynniq. For years, both provinces have been heavily committed to the transition to sustainably generated energy, including in mobility and infrastructure. After the successful test with the bicycle path, the two provinces are now playing an important role in the further development. The idea is that, in time, the provinces will undertake joint purchasing efforts for the large-scale application of SolaRoad on national highways.

Gaining experience

The SolaRoad in Zuid-Holland will be located on a bus lane along the N218 at the Halfweg-Molenwatering business park in Spijkenisse (ZH), 100 metres of which will be equipped with solar panels; in Noord-Holland, this concerns a section of 100 metres along the parallel road of the Fokkerweg (N232) at Schiphol Airport. As road authorities, both provinces want to gain experience in the management, maintenance and, in the future, tendering of solar road surfaces as a prelude to large-scale application. The Dutch road network is about 140,000 kilometres in length, a considerable part of which can be equipped with this technology. A third of the road network would be able to produce enough energy to supply nine million electric cars.

Province as launching customer

SolaRoad is an innovative product that must now take the next step: create volume and realise economies of scale. If that happens, the technology will become cheaper and we will enter a positive spiral. The projects in Noord- and Zuid-Holland, in which the provinces are acting as launching customers, are an important step in this transition phase. By investing in a product that is still subject to market risks, they are therefore promoting innovations in sustainable products and services.

Using the existing surface area

SolaRoad is a solution for the large-scale and invisible production of solar energy, without the need for extra space. The idea is to use as much of the existing surface area as possible, such as roofs, facades and roads, to give it a second function as a source of sustainable energy. To gain experience in management and maintenance, projects are being monitored for three years. The data from these projects will provide essential information on road surface performance and what can be improved in the future, like the influence of temperature, air pressure, wind and other conditions on the amount of energy generated.

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