Apparently, solar panels aren't just for roofs anymore.

The Dutch company SolaRoad has long planned to build bike paths and roadways with embedded solar panels, using nominally open space for renewable-energy generation.

Last November, it opened a 230-foot test section of bike path in Krommenie, near Amsterdam.

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And while the construction and operation of this solar bike path hasn't been problem-free, it's producing more power than SolaRoad had originally expected.

The bike path has already generated 3,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, a higher amount than previous estimates suggested over that period, the company says.

It says this puts the test section on track to achieve the "upper limit" of annual power generation originally deemed possible in laboratory testing.

SolaRoad solar bicycle lane, The Netherlands

SolaRoad solar bicycle lane, The Netherlands

The amount of electricity generated so far is also enough to power a single-person Dutch household for a year--or propel an electric scooter around the world 2.5 times--in case you were wondering.

Yet while power generation has been higher than expected, it's unlikely SolaRoad will recoup the $3.7 million invested in the project so far, according to TreeHugger.

Nonetheless, the results so far are encouraging given that a flat bike path may be less than an optimal location for placing solar panels.

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Because they sit almost flat, the panels on the SolaRoad bike path can't harvest as much sunlight as angled, roof-mounted panels.

Temperature fluctuations have also reportedly caused some de-lamination, due to shrinkage of the skid-resistant coating on the panels.

The coating is applied over 3/8-inch glass panels that protect the solar cells.

SolaRoad solar bicycle lane, The Netherlands

SolaRoad solar bicycle lane, The Netherlands

That glass is likely necessary, but would make for a slippery ride without any anti-skid coating. All of this adds cost and complexity.

Still, SolaRoad has ambitious plans for this concept.

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It envisions solar roads as not only a way to generate power, but also as a real-time mechanism to monitor traffic, suing embedded sensors, and possibly even guide self-driving cars.

De-icing in winter, variable lane markings, and wireless energy transfers for moving electric cars are also part of the vision.

It's a long way from a 230-foot bike path to all of that, but the early results may show promise.


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