At a time when our thirst for energy is greater than ever, procuring and managing our future energy needs is an increasingly delicate task. Speaking of which, a trio of technology leaders in Europe is working to develop a solar canopy system for highways. Although, the project is still in its initial phase, we are just a few steps away from tapping into more clean electricity through a vast, under-utilized road network.

Had you heard?

PV-Süd – PV Roofing Over Roads. The Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) along with Fraunhofer ISE in Germany, and Forster Industrietechnik in Switzerland want to develop a solar roof over long-distance roads and motorways. No doubt, this would require a high demand for mounting structures, but will also bring added benefits for the road.

In addition to the double use of space,  scientists expect other positive outcomes such as reduced maintenance costs of roads and even help with noise reduction. They also want to verify whether PV rooftops would provide added value for roads, as expected, while also testing the practical, technical, and economic feasibility of such concepts.

Decarbonization is hard but very worth it. The generation of energy through photovoltaics (PV) is one of the key technologies for increasing the share of renewable energy sources in primary energy production. And because you must start somewhere, direct, or indirect, , it goes as followed:

The pilot project will be carried out at one of the motorways in southern Germany, is to prove the legitimacy of this solution. A roof consisting of photovoltaic panels will be installed above the road at an altitude of 5.5 meters on the A81 motorway in the State of Baden-Württemberg.

Absolutely some significant infrastructure would be required to handle things a bit differently from rooftop solar panels or even solar panel carports. The system would need to be developed in a way that it would be especially sturdy or resilient in the case of impact or an accident. It would also need a special design to manage wind load as well as rain and snow. Naturally, traffic safety is another unique concern, and efficient maintenance would be important to make it cost-competitive.

What else?

There are also some inherent benefits to such a system. Via PV Canopy over highways, in particular, the following goals should be achieved:

(1) generate clean energy

(2) flexible use in the high-level road network,

(3) preservation of road surface by protecting it from Overheating and precipitation,

(4) additional noise protection.

These requirements are to be assessed in relation to technical feasibility and economic practicability.

Several projects in the USA and India have already shown that photovoltaics can be used to supply electricity via some non-traditional way. Many countries have developed solar PV projects on the surface of water bodies but covering canals through solar panels is something new. It will save land, water, and carbon emissions in one. It is just like hitting many targets with one stone.

A similar project is developed in South Korea on a 32km stretch of a highway that runs between Daejon to Sejong. Wherein there is a cycle lane, which is in the middle of a highway and is covered with solar panels. With this solar-covered bicycle path, cyclists are protected from the burning sun, isolated from traffic, and the country is enjoying clean energy without occupying any additional land. The ongoing PV SÜD project works on a similar concept.

It is estimated that from 2010 – 2050 the roads will increase globally by more than 60%. Although roads aid in connectivity they also cause a lot of damage to the natural habitat. Whereas this innovation of Solar Highways has a positive impact on the environment. The knowledge gained from the research project will not only benefit these thee partnering countries but the future use of photovoltaics.