This is one of those combos that always seems like a cleantech solution made in heaven: bike paths covered by simple solar PV roofs. Bikers, using the cleanest mode of transportation on Earth, get a little relief from the sun or protection from the rain while also being separated from the roadway and protected from drivers. As for the solar power, it’s easy to install (read: cheap), doesn’t take away space from other uses, and gets to shine in public view.
Solar PV bike paths are not ubiquitous, though. In fact, they’re rare. But Germany just got its first one, and maybe that’s a sign of many more to come in the country. Also, recall that Germany has been a solar PV trendsetter in the past, largely kickstarting the rooftop solar PV revolution.
This solar PV bike path was installed by green energy company Badenova. It is in southern Germany, in the city of Freiburg, near SC Freiburg’s football stadium. SC Freiburg’s stadium is already covered in solar panels — heterojunction solar panels from Meyer Burger. (SC Freiburg is currently sitting 5th in the Bundesliga, trying to edge its way into the top 4 for a place in the UEFA Champions League next year.)
The solar PV system totals 287 kW in capacity. It uses 900 Solarwatt translucent glass-glass solar modules. These solar modules are especially made and tested for applications such as this. “The modules in the series have a general technical approval from the German Institute for Building Technology (DIBt),” pv magazine writes. “They are therefore regarded as a regulated building product that can be used without restriction in the private and public sector. The solar modules can also be used for overhead and facade installations without individual checks and additional security measures.”
Seemingly involved in most experimental solar PV tech in Germany, Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Fraunhofer ISE) was involved in this project. Fraunhofer is also the one leasing, monitoring, and operating the solar PV bike path
The mounting systems, meanwhile, came from a local Freiburg company, Clickcon.
Solar PV bike paths have always seemed so logical, with green uses complementing each other so well, that I’m surprised they have not become big business yet. However, individuals and businesses have focused on putting solar panels on their roofs, where they can easily be connected to electricity, and companies building large projects as standalone money makers do them in open spaces. It is the ones owning, developing, or managing bike paths who would have to take the lead on initiatives like this. In the case of cities, counties, or other governmental entities, it appears that segment of society has not been keen to lead the way on this — “playing it safe” and going the rooftop or open-space route as well in the cases where they take any cleantech leadership role. Real estate developers also haven’t been quick to roll these into new developments. Whatever the entity, it seems the PR and carbon-reduction potential of solar PV bike paths would pay off. Maybe they were all just waiting for Fraunhofer and Freiburg to take the lead?
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