Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands are internally connected by a total of 1 million kilometer of roads.
This represents a huge area of built environment that can be used for renewable energy generation by integrating solar cell materials into road pavements and road furniture. On the long term, multi-GW scale implemention is considered feasible. As electric driving is rapidly developing, and also the use of intelligent traffic control systems is growing, an increasing amount of this energy produced in the public infrastructure can be used locally. Moreover, it can enhance secure operation of critical control systems independent of external power failures, and on remote locations local energy generation can be more cost effective.
In recent years, promising demonstrators have already been realized where crystalline solar cells are incorporated into bicycle paths (world’s first by SolaRoad, NL), roads (by Colas, F), and in a wide variety of noise barriers. However, costs of such systems are still high, not only because they have not yet developed towards the stage of standard high volume products, but also because they are based on brittle silicon solar cells. These require severe mechanical protection and much assembly. This project aims to reduce cost by using flexible (and thus less breakable) thin film solar sheets, and by more effective integration.
Within the Euregio Meuse-Rhine (EMR) region, a cluster of world class research institutes (several of which are collaborating in the Netherlands/Belgium/Germany public-private partnership Solliance) has a strong position in the development of thin film solar cell materials which can be produced on flexible materials in lengths up to many hundreds of meters. The project aims to catalyze a lasting cross border collaboration between industry, research institutes and stakeholders on photovoltaics, materials, manufacturing, installation, grid, and road infrastructure. This collaboration includes technology development, dissemination and validation of knowledge. Goal is to technically enable local manufacturers and building and construction companies to realize cost effective integration of long lengths of solar cell materials into public infrastructure. As a result, large scale durable electricity generation without additional land use will be enabled close to point of use. For example, PV integrated in all 35,000 km of Dutch bicycle road would generate 15 TWh of electricity per year, equivalent to a CO2 reduction in the order of 5 million tonnes per year.