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Solar panel bike paths expanded in the Netherlands

The Dutch boast over 35,000km of cycle paths within their home nation. In North Holland, two new cycle paths have been fitted with solar panels, offering a source of clean energy and providing an alternative to car travel.

As the world looks to transition to clean and renewable energy, Dutch authorities are getting creative as they look for ways to power their nation.

Due to the scarcity of land in the Netherlands, officials have found it difficult to identify areas in which to deploy large-scale solar power plants.

In recent years, research institutes and private companies have been exploring the feasibility of launching solar projects on non-agricultural land, including dikes, rooftops, and onshore or offshore water surfaces.

In some areas, bike lanes – which make up 35,000km of the country – are being turned into solar energy-producing surfaces. The first project of this kind was launched in 2016, when a bike path near Amsterdam was equipped with solar panels. In 2020, another was built near the city of Utrecht.

Now, a Colas Group company named Wattway and Dutch construction company BAM Royal Group have unveiled two brand new solar cycle paths in the North Holland and North Brabant provinces.

The cycle paths are equipped with photovoltaic (PV) modules which are protected by multiple layers of resin. The electrical architecture has also been designed to reduce the amount of wiring, which will enable the panels to produce 160 MWh/year of renewable energy during the first year.

For context, 100 megawatts of solar power is capable of providing electricity for as many as 16,400 homes.

The Dutch government is also looking to test the viability of solar power production on its national road infrastructure, which would see the deployment of solar installations along highways and on noise barriers.

 

Previous attempts at creating solar-panelled roads have drawn criticism.

Those who object to them point out that road-installed solar panels are prone to being shaded, as well as covered by dirt and dust from the movement of vehicles.

To withstand the weight of cycle and motor traffic, they are also required to be fitted with thicker glass than conventional solar panels. They’ll also need to lie completely flat, while traditional panels are placed on an angle to optimise the amount of sunlight they are exposed to.

Placed on roads and shaded by vehicles or cyclists, the panels are limited in the amount of rays they can absorb. For this reason, many believe that the cost of such projects will inevitably outweigh the benefits gained from their energy output.

Over the next five years, provincial government experts in the Netherlands will assess how the new solar bike lines will stand up to the mechanical stress placed on them over time. They will also calculate the costs for their maintenance with the solar panels’ energy yield.

We’ll have to wait to see whether the energy resulting from the solar panels outweighs the cost of planning, installation, and maintenance.

Let’s hope it does though, as the success of PV bike lanes could be a great option for many European nations in the future.

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