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  • Writer's pictureSofa Summits

The Next Generation of Solar Panels – Cycleways, Roads & Roof Tiles

The world recognises the need to cut down and eventually stop using fossils fuels in the creation of energy, well everyone other than President Trump that is. While the the leader of the US is busy pulling his country out of the Paris Agreement, the rest of the world is starting to test and pilot technology that could help all countries to meet their climate change commitments.

One of these technologies is solar power, recently there have a number of interesting implementations that could really make a big difference to way that we produce and consume energy in the future.

Solar Powered Cycleways & Roads

Back in 2015 the world’s first solar powered cycle way was built in Krommenie, Netherlands. It was only a test track, but it did show that the technology worked and even on a small stretch of cycleway it produced enough electricity to power a normal sized house for a year. The estimation, after a recent extension of the project, is that a 10m x 3.5m stretch of cycleway will be able to produce enough to power one household for a year. That is not much cycleway for a whole year of energy!

The next step after solar powered cycleways is solar powered roads and this is already happening in France, Tourouvre-au-Perche in Normandy to be more exact. Colas (a French road builder) has worked with the INES (France’s Solar Power Research Institute) to install a 1km stretch of solar powered road which is now being trialled to see how it reacts to general wear and tear and also to different weather conditions. The long term aim of such projects is not only to create energy for the power grid, but for these roads to be able to directly power electric cars.

One the biggest factors that is currently limiting a more extensive roll out of electric cars is that they are unable to travel long distances without recharging and that it takes a long time to charge the battery once flat. Solar powered roads could solve this problem. Another factor in colder countries is that the roads would be able to heat themselves, potentially there would be no more need for snow ploughs and gritting to clear roads. The potential benefits for society of such roads would be great.

There is a long way for the technology to go before it can be said to be reliable in all circumstances and weather conditions, but the initial results and signs are very positive

Solar Powered Roof Tiles

For the past 20 years we have been used to seeing solar powered panels stuck to the roofs of houses and offices as citizens and businesses have started to try to change the way that they consume energy. Whilst effective and very good for the environment these solar panels do not look particularly nice and in some instances councils have prevented the use of them for planning control reasons.

Tesla’s solar roof tiles hope to change all of this. The tiles are designed to look like normal tiles and are fitted to the house like normal roof tiles, so there should be no need for planning problems going forward. The energy that is created can be used by the household or sold back to the grid. Other than the look of them the other big advantage of these tiles is that they are able to cover the whole area of the roof and therefore they will be more effective than traditional panels.

So, moving forward there are new ways that citizens, local councils and governments can prioritise and implement solar powered technology to decrease carbon footprint, hopefully this will help them to meet their Paris agreements long before they are required to.


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