Solar roads in Tokyo for 2020 Olympics

The Tokyo metropolitan government have announced that they’ll build solar roads in Tokyo which will help Japan promote itself as an eco-friendly nation ahead of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. Let’s take a closer look at solar road technology and see how it’s working in other countries as well.

Solar roads in Tokyo

The country has already made some inroads with regards to trialling the solar road technology – in May a car park at a 7-11 in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture. It consists of solar panels installed on the road, with a covering of a special resin which enhances durability and allows cars/bikes to drive over the panels without damaging them. 

A manager at the 7-11 store was quoted in the Independent as saying: “The solar road system can generate 16,145 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, covering about nine per cent of the entire electricity that the store consumes.”

Tokyo’s government has set a goal for 2030 – that renewable energy should represent at least 30% of power consumption in the city (up from 12% in 2016).  We’re not sure where the solar roads in Tokyo will go, but we’ll let you know as soon as we have any information.

Business Times reports that it cost around 5 million euro per KM of solar road for the roads already installed in France – so it’s still very expensive and we have a ways to go before solar roads are everywhere.

We reported last year on solar roads in China, which are strong enough for medium-sized trucks to drive over. No news yet on how that is going but we’ve got trials in the Netherlands on cycling roads and also on French motorways so there should be more information on solar road performance soon.

More Solar Roads

Solar roads in Tokyo
Solar roads in Tokyo (artist’s impression) (source: news.com.au)

If you’re interested in reading more about solar highways, here are some other articles which may be of interest – the tech is still very much so in its nascent stages so keep your eyes posted and we’ll keep you updated on everything solar road related!

SONOB Installation on Dutch Highways (IIPV) – solar panel sound barriers (SONOB) as part of a project replacing currently installed sound barriers. 

The ACT has a ‘solar highway’ which isn’t exactly a solar road per se, but a step in the right direction.

recent report by US firm IDTechEX advises that they think “electrically smart roads” can be a $23 billion industry in 10 years, according to an article from news.com.au. 

 

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Solar Roads in China almost ready for testing

Solar Roads in China are being trialled, according to Electrek. The roadways have solar panels underneath them that may have myriad benefits such as wireless charging, digitally assisting driverless cars, powering streetlights, signs, charging stations, and so on. Once a laughable idea due to the cost, massive improvements in technology mean that we are edging closer towards having true ‘solar highways’ at some point in the near future. 

Solar Roads In China

Solar Roads in China
Solar Roads in China (source: en.people.cn)

The Jinan City Expressway, the stretch of solar roadway currently being constructed, is a 1.2 mile (a little under 2km) stretch of road which has transparent concrete being laid over a layer of solar panels. The construction is already complete and it’s currently waiting to be connected to the grid – they expect this to be completed by the end of the year. It’s actually the second solar roadway in China – with the first being completed in Jinan by the Quilu Transporation Development Group, which has 790 square yards of solar panels and is currently performing well. 

Technical Details

The solar highway has been designed with three discrete layers – on top a transparent concrete which is, for all intents and purposes, the same as regular bitumen/asphalt. In the middle are the specially-designed ‘weight bearing’ solar panels, and below them another layer to separate the panels from the damp earth below. According to Elektrek even medium sized trucks will be able to drive on the solar highway. 

Although the project’s technology is markedly different, it is in some ways similar to the Dutch SONOB highway installation earlier this year – where they use Infrastructure Integrated Photovoltaics (IIPV) (Also known as Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)) in order to help power sound barriers, lights and more.

Given that Jinan is one of the most polluted cities in China, it’s great to see them working on a second solar road and hopefully this is just the beginning. 

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SONOB Installation on Dutch Highways (IIPV)

The Netherlands is expanding a test of solar panel sound barriers (SONOB) as part of a project replacing currently installed sound barriers. The usage of Infrastructure Integrated Photovoltaics (IIPV) (Also known as Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)) is being used in the Tesla Solar Roof, solar windows, and many more locations worldwide. 

SONOB Trial in Holland – Phase 2

SONOB Solar Highway Netherlands Heijmans Van Campen Bayards
SONOB Solar Highway in the Netherlands (source: vancampenbayards.com)

Electrek are reporting that, following a successful 2014 trial in Hertogenbosch of the technology, a new project will commence construction early next year. They plan to connect to the grid later in 2018. The 68 discrete sound barriers will be five metres high and four metres wide along a 400 metre stretch of highway. This will make Solar Highways the largest project in Europe using integrated solar cells in noise barriers to generate power whilst also stopping noise pollution in the surrounding neighbourhood. 

The project will be undertaken by Heijmans in conjunction with Rijkswaterstaat (Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment), Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) and the Solar Energy Application Centre (SEAC) – and the location of it is next to the A50 at Uden. Heijmans will be collaborating on the construction with Scheuten, Van Campen Bayards and Libra Energy.

SONOB Technology

The 2014 project explored the efficiacy of two disparate methods – semi-transparent crystalline silicon-based solar noise barriers, and semi-transparent coloured plates which used solar concentrator technology. According to SEAC, after key learnings in the 2014 trials were utilised, a SONOB ‘living lab’ was installed in Den Bosch which adds extra functionality to improve soundproofing, scalability, noise barrier requirements, semi-transparency, and so on. 

The new barriers, facing north/south and east/west, are equipped with two Luminescent Solar Concentrators (LSC) with c-Si and GaAs cells and two panels with mono and bi-facial c-Si cells. The goal is to create a ‘breakthrough modular solar noise barrier concept’ that could be rolled out countrywide (and farther!). 

We’ll wait for results on this and also be sure to report on any new IIPV/BIPV installations coming up in the future to monitor how this exciting technology is progressing! 

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