Solar Roadways Revisited: No longer just a viral internet fad, Dutch solar road tests prove their mettle

Remember that Indiegogo campaign last year to raise money for solar roads? We do (because we blogged about it).

You can check out the ad for the US solar roadway campaign below:

This project is still in testing and thanks to crowd funding (of over $2 million) is still in the works.

However, across the pond in the Netherlands, a company has already produced and installed a small patch of solar road. The test patch of solar roadway has been operational since November of last year and seems to be working as well as, if not better than, expected. This is great news! The 70 meter long test road has produced 300,000 kwh of energy over the first 6 months (70 kwh per meter per year). This value was the predicted best case scenario for the roadway, so the project has been very successful. Solar roads are a great idea and may help us use less fossil fuels. These roadways are able to collect energy from the sun (less efficiently than a rooftop panel because they cannot be angled). This energy is fed into the grid at no cost (including no burning fossil fuels). Someday in the not so distant future you may be driving your electric car on a solar road and parking in a space that will charge your car while you park, all without burning and fossil fuels or producing any CO2.

In the meantime, we still get most of our energy from fossil fuels and we still have to drive on normal asphalt roads. Have you ever driven on the highway late at night and seen a paving crew preparing to start work? Large trucks carrying asphalt and paving materials line up for miles on the side of the road. The worst part, they all leave their engines running. Each truck deposits it’s load and that asphalt is worked, flattened, and cooled, all by other gasoline powered heavy machinery. The stuff that we pave roads with is often made of leftover rock, gravel, and dregs of industry, but not all of it is recycled. At the same time, we are producing tons of plastic waste each day. There may be a solution here. A company in the Netherlands (clearly they are the world leaders on renewable roadways) has designed a plan that will allow for roads to be paved with a recycled plastic base.

image: Volkerwessels

image: Volkerwessels

These new plastic roads will be better than asphalt for several reasons:

1.) They will create fewer emissions (road paving produces 1.45 million tonnes of CO2 per year)

2.) Plastic roads would last longer and need less upkeep

3.) Plastic roadways can be constructed off-site and delivered to where they need to be. This will reduce traffic congestion and construction time significantly. Saving everyone time, money, and fuel.

When will these roads be ready for use? The company says this is still in early development, but a plastic road could be installed as early as 2018!

Keep and eye on the materials that you are walking, biking, or driving on. They may be changing soon. People are finding innovative ways to harness renewable energy be more environmentally conscious.

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