The Dutch finance minister opens the world's first public bicycle path that generates electricity. Inventors of SolaRoad say their technology is a major step towards a sustainable mobility system that could help power traffic lights and electric cars within five years. Jim Drury reports.
SolaRoad isn't your average bicycle path...... It's the first in the world to be fitted with embedded solar panels. Dutch finance minister Henk Kamp got in the saddle to launch the 70 metre stretch of a busy Amsterdam commuter path. (SOUNDBITE) (English), DUTCH FINANCE MINISTER, HENK KAMP, SAYING: "This is not economically feasible but we will make it economically feasible and we are working on it very hard." Co-inventor Sten de Wit says SolaRoad consists of rows of miniscule crystalline silicon solar cells, encased within concrete and covered with a translucent layer of tempered glass. SOUNDBITE (English), SOLAROAD CO-INVENTOR AND DEVELOPER, STEN DE WIT, SAYING: "The top layer is the main innovation of this road, because it has to combine a number of functions: it has to be transparent, because the sunlight has to go through the top layer to the solar cells that are underneath, but it also has to be sufficiently skid-resistant, sufficiently rough." Because the path can't be adjusted to the sun's position, it produces 30 percent less energy than solar roof panels. But de Wit says it's suitable for up to a fifth of Dutch roads, and could eventually be used to power traffic lights and electric cars. SOUNDBITE (English), SOLAROAD CO-INVENTOR AND DEVELOPER, STEN DE WIT, SAYING: "If in the future we could put that electricity from the road into electric cars that drive over the road, then we could make a huge step towards sustainable mobility system." De Wit's colleagues at the TNO research institute say they'll have a commercially viable product within five years...once this initial trial gets into gear.