Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands – together have more than 800,000 kilometers of roads, which they could use for their energy needs.

On the 400-meter-long part of the highway in the Netherlands, sound barriers not only reduce noise, but also create green energy for 60 local households, because they are equipped with solar panels.

This pilot renewable energy project served as the inspiration to create Rolling Solar, a European project that aims to create more energy from roads in a cost-effective and efficient way using solar panels.

EU funding

The total cost of the Rolling Solar project is 5.7 million euros, and more than 2.8 million will be provided through the European Cohesion Policy. About 20 industrial partners and laboratories from three countries (Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands) are also part of the project.

Three types of solar cells are being experimented with in a photovoltaic sound wall set up in Rosmalen, the Netherlands. The main goal is to reduce costs. These new panels are being tested at Heijmans, a partner in the Rolling Solar project, which deals with real estate, construction and technology.

Heimans Innovation Manager, Stein Verquilen, believes that solar cells on roads and in sound barriers are “a very useful solution for the energy transition” because they use land and space twice. They give existing structures an additional function.

Cross-border cooperation

Another goal of the project is to develop sustainable cross-border cooperation and skills sharing in the research and industrial sectors. The laboratory in Eindhoven is developing thin and flexible photovoltaic cells, made of silicon-cadmium in various forms. The goal is to move from tailor-made to mass production.

Peter Toonssen, project leader, Rolling Solar, describes what they are doing in Eindhoven as pre-development on a small scale of the future end product. They test equipment of small size, to check its resistance to all types of environmental influences, such as moisture and various types of gases, which are normally found in the atmosphere. This is done to check if the products will last. When that is determined, we move on to production on a larger scale.

In Genk, Belgium, there is another photovoltaic sound barrier on the Energyville campus. Three different types of solar cells are connected to the grid there. Temperature and mechanical deformations are carefully measured. The following phases are also already being considered there.

Michael Daenen, a professor at the University of Hasselt, which is the Parnet University of the project, says there are still some obstacles to producing energy from roads and sound barriers. There are still doubts about who owns the energy they produce and who could maintain the panels in the event of an accident.

He believes that these issues will be addressed in future projects. For now, on the Energivil campus, they are concentrating on “reducing costs, eliminating legal aspects and focusing on business economic models.”

E2 portal (Euronews)

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