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Netherlands unveils two ‘solar cycle paths’ to support clean-energy grid: ‘A clever use of existing space’

“Just seems like it could be used for longer with less resources and maintenance almost anywhere else.”

"Just seems like it could be used for longer with less resources and maintenance almost anywhere else."

Photo Credit: Wattway

Two new “solar cycle paths” have been installed in the Netherlands, allowing cyclists to ride their bikes over working solar arrays that will harvest clean, renewable energy from the sun to power the Dutch grid, as reported by Electrek. 

The project is the work of Colas Group company Wattway and Dutch construction company BAM Royal Group, and each path will feature over 10,000 square feet of solar surface, generating 160 MWh/year of renewable energy.

Wattway, which bills itself as the world’s first solar road surfacing company, has been in existence since 2015, and it has run around 40 trial roads in multiple countries. These have not always gone smoothly, however.

In 2019, the company’s “longest solar road in the world” in France was declared a failure after it became heavily damaged by cars driving on it, per Business Insider. The road also failed to hit energy targets, as it was covered in leaves that prevented sunlight from getting through.

Wattway has not given up, though, and has continued to refine its technology. It will reportedly maintain and monitor the Dutch project for five years.

Several other companies are also working on similar products, such as Solar Roadways, while others are working on solar canopies that can be installed over roads instead of on the roads themselves. 

Electrek called the idea “really smart,” writing that solar roads are “a clever use of existing space, like putting solar on warehouse rooftops.”

But the concept sparked intense debate in the Electrek comments section, with many commenters pointing out that roads are not like rooftops, in that they are much more susceptible to damage.

“Would it make more sense to put conventional solar panels OVER the bike paths?” wrote one commenter.

“Just seems like they’re taking unnecessary damage over time by not being over a path. I’m not mad at it, just seems like it could be used for longer with less resources and maintenance almost anywhere else,” wrote another.

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