The Road to Energy Independence

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To some, it should come as no surprise that the road to energy independence begins, of all places, in the Netherlands.

Last year, the socially- and ecologically-conscious bike haven, in public-private partnership with SolaRoad, introduced a brand new, 70-meter solar test road in the town of Krommenie. Really more of a bike path made up of solar-harvesting panels coated in protective glass, the road, which can be safely travelled upon without affecting solar yield, began as an experiment, but it has since exceeded expectations.

In the first six months of its trial run, the road has generated over 3000 kwh of energy, enough to power a single-person household for an entire year.

Comprised of cheap, readily available solar paneling arranged within a structure containing layers of rubber, concrete and glass, the road can withstand the weight of a fire engine without compromising performance and, over the span of a year, is estimated to generate upwards of 70 kwh per square meter, a staggering number equal to what officials initially projected as a lofty maximum.

Courtesy of SolaRoad

Courtesy of SolaRoad

Plans are in the works to further fortify the road to accommodate buses, larger vehicles, and pretty much all the wear and tear of a normal highway, as well as to improve the structure and coating of the road, but for the time being the test road is all there is. With five years sunk into the development of just the test track itself, it seems a larger roll out, while likely inevitable, is a long way off, but officials are engaged in talks to potentially lay test roads in other Dutch provinces, and with time possibly even in California.

But that too is not so surprising. The avocado-and-goatscaping capital of the United States could, one day, have their very own solar test track on which all of its self-driving cars can careen into one another while simultaneously saving the planet and making everyone very, very carsick.

I’m not sure that’s what the Dutch had in mind, but California is different. They’re crazy. And they’ll be their own literal desert island by the time they get around to building it, so they could probably use a little walk on the bright side.




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