Most people dread their morning commute. You're tired, there's too many other commuters and all you want to do is crawl back into bed. But what if your morning commute produced more than just agitation?
The Dutch know what's up. The world's first solar-powered bike lane will open in the Netherlands Nov. 12, effectively transforming a very green form of transportation into something even more eco-friendly.
SolaRoad is the first road with solar panels, and it will stretch 70 meters, or 230 feet, from the Amsterdam suburbs of Kremmenie to Womerveer. As an average of 2,000 cyclists ride along the two lanes on any given day, the road is expected to produce enough electricity to power three households when it's extended to 100 meters, or roughly 328 feet, in 2016. Not bad for a morning commute.
SolaRoad is the product of efforts by industry, research and governmental institutions. The path is made of rows of crystalline silicon solar cells encased in concrete and with a layer of glass on top. Since the panels are laid flat and can't be adjusted to the changing position of the sun, they are expected to produce 30 percent less energy than solar panels found on roofs.
Still, the Netherlands research organization TNO, which developed the idea for the bike lane, thinks 20 percent of the country's 140,000 kilometers (nearly 87,000 miles) of road could have these solar panels installed, TNO's Sten de Wit told The Guardian. The electricity generated from the solar panels could power everything from traffic lights to electric cars.
"Electric vehicles are on the rise, but are not really a substitute until the electricity they use is generated in a sustainable way. Roads can generate power right where it is needed," de Wit wrote in a publication for TNO, as reported by the BBC.
Cycling culture is huge in the Netherlands with riding a bike being the second most popular form of transportation in the country and not terribly far behind the car either. Naturally, a solar-powered bike lane really makes sense for this nation, which already seems to be dominating in terms of green modes of transportation.
But could something like the SolaRoad pop up in the United States any time soon? Well, the U.S.-based Solar Roadways sure hopes so. The company is also developing solar panels for roads. Solar Roadways' official website claims that it could produce more than three times the electricity currently used in the U.S. and cut greenhouse gases by up to 75 percent.
However, for the Netherlands, the U.S. and other countries around the world, the cost of solar roads is definitely going to be a concern. SolaRoad is estimated to cost $3.75 million, which is definitely not cheap. Transforming roads into electricity producers certainly sounds expensive, but it could be worth it.