Scott Pierce for Collectively:
Tourists often flock to Amsterdam for its delectable coffee shops. But there's more to do in the Netherlands than plopping down at one of these fine establishments. After all, inevitably inhaling stroopwafel and bitterballen is never a good look. If you find yourself in that hazy daze, look up! Chances are you'll notice most people riding bicycles. Seriously: there are more bicycles than people in the Netherlands. In fact, up to 70 percent of all journeys in Amsterdam are made by bike. That's a whole lot of wicker baskets and helmets. Now, you can take a new kind of trip in a small town just outside of the city, Krommenie, which is opening the world's first solar power bike path today.
It's the brainchild of a research group TNO and the province's government, dubbed SolaRoad. Altogether, researchers spent several years testing how thousands of cyclists can actually roll over solar cells. In the end, the final process sounds like an expensive game of Tetris. Long story short, crystalline silicon solar power cells are wedged in between skid-resistant safety glass and concrete housing. That way, they'll be protected against heavy use and environmental factors, like extreme heat or cold. SolaRoad claims the glass won't create dangerous shards if it breaks. Instead, it will shatter into small pieces that remain safely under the module's skid-resistant coating.
Right now, the path is only 230 feet long. But researchers at SolaRoad argue its simply a test that could meet the electrical demands of two-to-three houses a year. Over the next three years, it's expected that the path will cost roughly $3.7 million (€3 million), most of which will be paid by local authorities. That sounds expensive, but there are potentially very clear longterm environmental and financial benefits to projects like this. In the Netherlands alone, there are 22,000 miles (35,000 kilometers) of designated bike paths. That could potentially pave the way for further development, eventually driving costs of solar panels on roofs.
Photo credit: SolaRoad