Of Course This Country Has A Solar Bike Path

by Suzanne Samin

The Netherlands are, in part, known for its progressive environmental policies. So, it's no surprise they're responsible for yet another awesome, planet-friendly technological advance. The Netherlands' new solar bike path, which is the world's first public road with solar panels, will open on Wednesday. The road will help power the national energy grid, and may be the first step to actually making solar roadways a reality.

The $3.7 million road only stretches about 230 feet long, but Sten de Wit of engineering firm TNO told AP Tuesday that each square meter (yard) of road generates 50-70 kilowatt hours of energy per year. In other words, this small patch of road could singlehandedly meet the electrical needs of two to three households a year. Not exactly cost-effective on the outset, but pretty amazing nonetheless. The environmental benefits could easily outweigh the overhead costs, pulling said houses from oil dependence instantaneously.

According to projections done by the firm, the roadways could be profitable in the Netherlands within ten years, in particular because the Netherlands happens to have a lot of bike paths. But, the benefits of these roadways can transfer to other countries pretty easily. For one, these roadways — unlike, say, power plants — can be located near residential areas. Additionally, solar panels are only getting cheaper, so the construction will cost less and less with time.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The U.S. has a similar effort, though it's much more grassroots-based. The viral Solar Freakin' Roadways video, which went viral earlier this year, promoted an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for an Idaho-based couple's project. The couple invented solar panels that can easily lay over roads in the U.S., and would be able to power hybrid and electric cars. The campaign raised $2.2 million and also received two government grants.

While there's no question the U.S.'s version of the project will face endless amounts of obstacles and hampering from the government, the oil industry, and the environmentally ignorant, the Netherlands' new bike path proves the task is actually possible and (importantly) ultimately efficient despite its costly overhead.

Long story short: now that there's been some concrete success with solar pathways, there's literally no excuse not to start implementing this technology where possible. So, I would like my solar roadways, bike paths, and sidewalks now please.

Images: Getty, Tumblr