Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

SolaRoad Finally Launched

It is almost two years ago that we reported on an innovative renewable energy project in Holland: SolaRoad. Now that project is finally implemented as a world first.

Photo-voltaic electricity generation requires quit a lot of space. In a very densely populated country like the Netherlands [484/km2], space needs to be treated economically. An example of this principle is: leave wheat production (22 $ cent/kg) to North-Americans and their endless empty plains and instead dominate niche world markets with something more colorful, that brings several dollar per kilo biomass and adds beauty to your landscape as a bonus:

[flower fields of Holland]

Solar panels, same story. The conventional approach of solar panels is to place panels on a roof and combine electricity generation with the protection function against wind, rain and cold. But there is a new possibility of dual use of the scarce space resource: roads. The idea behind Solaroad is to combine the transportation function of a road with the possibility of photo-voltaic electricity generation.

Potential Holland: 450 km2 road. Assuming a yield of 130 kWh/m2/year, as well as a reduction of 30% due to sub-optimal placement of the road panels (not optimal directed towards the sun), this theoretically could result in a maximum electricity production of the Dutch road system of 45 billion kWh/year. An average Dutch household consumes 3500 kWh/year. Distribution of these 45 billion kWh over 7 million Dutch households results in 6430 kWh/household. In other words, the Dutch road system alone could provide enough energy to power all Dutch homes and additionally generate a lot of surplus energy that could be used for transportation and industry.

And reserve the scarce fields for cows, vegetables and flowers, rather than solar panels. Although Holland is one of the smallest countries in the world, it is nevertheless the second largest agricultural exporter, not too far behind the US (240 times as big as Holland) and before Germany and France. Solaroad could help create the conditions for Holland to stay in the upper regions of the global agricultural production pecking order.

[] – Niederlande bauen ersten Solarradweg der Welt

SolaRoad Dutch language video.

The idea is picked up elsewhere as well

The idea has been promoted for years by the American couple Julie und Scott Brusaw. Now it is happening in the Netherlands for the first time.


To understand why the Netherlands would be first to start a Solaroad pilot, it should be realized that the Netherlands is an overcrowded country, where almost every square meter is utilized and has an economic function. A few years ago, Dutch television broadcasted a program named “Nederland van boven” (The Netherlands from above). It was a series of programs, where all aspects of Dutch life were considered from above, using drones. Some pictures are really spectacular. Dutch spoken, no English subs.

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