It would prove incredibly costly to equip the unused surfaces of the hundreds and thousands of highways and motorways with resistant solar panelled roads, subject to damage
The Austrian Institute of Technology, Martin Heinrich, supervisor of the solar module product team Fraunhofer Solar Energy Systems (ISE) in Germany, and Forster Industrietechnik in Switzerland with interest from the German Federal Ministry of Transport Switzerland’s Federal Roads Office is working to develop a solar canopy system. It is called the PV-SÜD initiative.
A trial demonstration section will be built in Southern Germany, including the 1-year testing at the section 20-40m from the exit and entrance, where they will not only study the power generation volume, but also observe on water drainage, snow and wind resistance, stability, and resistance to vehicle collision, since equipment maintenance and traffic security are the largest challenge subsequent to the completion of engineering.
Naturally, traffic safety is another unique concern, and efficient maintenance would be important to making it cost competitive. In addition to the double use of space, the scientists expect other positive outcomes, including the protection of road surfaces from precipitation and overheating. Such a system can also help reduce noise pollution.
The theory is basically attainable, as Germany has a 13,000km long highway network, and if a standard 4-lane highway measures 24m in width is established with solar panels that are capable of 180W/m2, the total solar capacity can reach to 56GW, which exceeds the accumulated installed capacity of 49GW in Germany during 2019.
Looking at the power consumption demand from Germany in 2019, the solar highway will satisfy 9% of power consumption in the country, equalling approximately 1/3 of household power consumption.
The Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management is also considering to install solar panels on the A37 motorway in Drenthe that are expected to be 40km, and 3 km2 (approx. 300 hectares) in total area. The solar panels will not be laid on the road, but on the refuge islands and enclosures between roads, and will arrive at 140MW in total installed capacity.
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