Dr. ir. Sten de Wit
The increase in overall energy demand, and the desire for more renewable energy sources, requires innovative thinking and new methods of electricity creation. To that end, TNO found a unique solution. SolaRoad is the world's first roadway paved with customized strong and stiff solar panels. It offers a large, effective surface area for collecting solar energy from already-existing infrastructure.
Together with its consortium partners, TNO developed SolaRoad: the first roadway that collects and converts solar energy into electricity. By utilising the existing road infrastructure, SolaRoad allows a greater surface area for energy collection, with little or no impact on the landscape. SolaRoad feeds energy back into the grid, and stimulates further sustainable energy innovation. With nearly 140,000 kilometres of roadway in the Netherlands – nearly twice the surface area of the rooftops – the energy that can be collected from SolaRoad could make a serious contribution to sustainable energy production. Based on tests in the laboratory, we expect that SolaRoad has the potential to produce 50 kilowatt-hours of electricity per square metre, per year, in the Netherlands.
To realise the ambitious goals of the SolaRoad concept, TNO partnered with Imtech for the technological partnership, and with Ooms Civiel, experts and producers in road construction. To create a cooperative 'golden triangle', they sought governmental and roadway management partnership from the province of Noord-Holland. Together, the consortium developed SolaRoad – prefabricated panels of roadway with a tempered glass surface. Under the glass, silicon solar cells collect solar energy that can be converted into electricity to power the road's lighting, traffic signals and signage, send electricity to local households, and someday even power the electric vehicles that ride upon the road.
The consortium created SolaRoad to meet sustainable energy needs, yet fulfil the safety and durability requirements of a standard roadway. Now, the first metres of a bicycle road in North Holland is paved with SolaRoad. A living lab which now can be tested in the real world. Building on the experience and input from the pilot bicycle path will be studied for the next three years. In future, TNO will explore more potential for SolaRoad. See SolaRoad.nl for more information.