This “solar bike path” provides green energy and saves space
After Grave and Oirschot, this month a cycle path in Wagenberg will also be equipped with solar panels that can be used by two-wheelers. Three test strips show whether the public road is suitable for the production of green electricity. In five years it should be clear whether the streets of Brabant will be paved with solar panels.
Wind turbines and solar parks take up a lot of space and nobody wants them in their garden, right? A solar cycle path can therefore be a great alternative. It provides environmentally friendly energy and does not affect scarce space, the province points out. Whether this is a useful addition in years to come remains to be seen.
In 2019, a 22 square meter solar cycle path was built next to the N324 near Grave. The other is located along the N395 near Oirschot since last year. There are three different types of solar panels over a length of 35 meters. Each type will be tested for the next five years for lifespan, maintenance costs, (cycling) safety and fuel efficiency.
The yield of electricity in Grave is a small beer. This goes to a nearby bus stop, street lamp or e-bike charging station. In Oirschot it is already one size bigger. According to calculations, three households can draw electricity from the 85 square meters of solar panels for one year. The solar cycle path along the N285 near Wagenberg will provide ten times more with 850 square meters. There will soon be nearly 600 solar panels over a length of 500 meters. This could make it the longest solar cycle path in the Netherlands.
Cyclists don’t have to worry about slipping on solar panels. The surface has been made extra slip-resistant and provided with a layer that prevents wear from heavy use, frost or road salt in winter.
To reduce costs, Brabant is buying back the solar cycle paths with the provinces of North Holland and South Holland. By placing larger orders at a time, it becomes possible for suppliers to invest in technology.
It will be necessary, because it is not only the hosanna with the solar cycle paths. The electrical yield is less than a quarter compared to solar panels on a roof. This emerged from an earlier trial in Utrecht Maartendijk. The difference is in the slope of a roof and the flat surface of the road. The rough surface of the solar cycle paths also leads to a drop in electricity production. Sunlight is reflected or absorbed by the coating.
And then the costs. A normal concrete bike path lasts up to 60 years. A bike path with solar panels is to be replaced with worn-out solar cells after 10 years. The environmental benefits are offset by those pennies. CO2 is emitted with each construction or replacement of a cycle path. With a “regular cycle path”, this will never be recovered. Thanks to green electricity, a solar cycle path is CO2 neutral after about 7 years.
It is likely that the technology, and therefore the energy efficiency, of solar cycle paths will improve. Whether it will be enough to switch completely to sustainable energy in 2050 will be decided in the future. Until then, we will happily continue to cycle.
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