Solar Bike-Path To Nowhere: $3.7 Million…Enough Electricity To Power A Whole Three Households

Greens have been all excited about the recent, high publicity solar bike path put in operation in Holland this week. It’s a whole 100 meters or so long…a distance that allows the average cyclist to cycle over and to feel good about saving the planet for about 15 seconds.


Photo (text added by author): Solaroad

NPR writes:

A Dutch project that integrates solar panels into a bike commuter path will officially open this week, on a special roadway outside Amsterdam. Power generated by the SolaRoad’s panels will be funneled into the national energy grid.”

Imagine that, the bike path will be feeding green power “into the national grid“.

That reminds me of the old Peanuts series where Linus once asked Charlie Brown how much allowance he got for feeding Snoopy. “10 cents a week,” Charlie Brown replied. Linus commented: “That helps boost the GNP”. At least for Snoopy it was something worthwhile.

The Guardian proudly trumpeted:

Solar panels embedded in the cycle path near Amsterdam could generate enough electricity to power three houses, with potential to extend scheme to roads.” here writes the bill for the road will be $3.7 MILLION dollars. For the price you’d think it would at least power an entire neighborhood or a small village. Vox writes:

But is this even practical? The bike path will cost roughly $3.7 million and, when it’s fully built out to 330 feet in 2016, will generate enough electricity to power… three households. Not very cost-effective. (That’s more than 1,000 times costlier than the price of rooftop solar electricity in the United States.)”

Of course much of the sum reflects a one time development cost. Even if the price gets driven down 95%, the problem of cost is still relevant and the sun barely ever shines in Amsterdam for much of the year. The horrendous cost of paving all of Holland’s extensive bike paths in the end would not eliminate a single coal power plant for the simple fact that the panels work only for a tiny fraction of the time and conventional power plants need to be on standby.

Then there are still the unanswered questions of how well the panels will hold up. One only needs to consider rain, snow, freeze-thaw cycles, vandalism, cleaning requirements etc.

Many of us have already thought that the idea of mounting them on the roofs of homes was already quite kooky and impractical enough, but the idea of putting them down on road surfaces really takes the economy cake.


26 responses to “Solar Bike-Path To Nowhere: $3.7 Million…Enough Electricity To Power A Whole Three Households”

  1. Moose

    Where was I thinking that solar panels need to be faced toward and tracking the sun to get even near their maximum yield. However low that maybe.

    But, take a look at the next YT video from an electronics engineer explaining why this is a BIG FAIL:

    Dave shows that this will never work as the Dutch might think and will only costs a lot of money for a phony feel good green feeling.

    1. DirkH

      Trackers have become uneconomic in 2008 – at that time solar panels became cheap enough that it is now more economical to offset the sub-optimal power production by simply buying more of them, instead of buying a tracker system.

      That’s why you don’t see them anymore. The cost relation stays the same no matter the subsidies, so they won’t return.

      1. Bart

        I estimate you’d need about 5X the solar array surface area in winter in The Netherlands for flat arrays to match steerable arrays. Even if the arrays were free, you’d have to buy that much more real estate to put them on.

    2. Bernd Felsche

      Don’t the Dutch have deciduous trees near the cycleways? The leafblowers used to maintain PV generation may consume more energy in autumn than the cycleways collect via solar all year.

      Your statement at around 19 minutes into the video is incorrect.
      You said

      Germany are producing over 50% of their ah … energy requirements … erm electricity requirements from solar power

      That’s not true on “any day” of the year like today as can be seen from the actual production figures.

      While the nameplate peak electrical power capacity of PV solar in Germany is around 50% of that of conventional generators, so is wind. So together, by implication, Germany doesn’t need any conventional power stations. The peak is however very rare and unpredictable. When high production levels of wind and PV coincide, the grid requires frequent intervention to maintain stability. The renewables must be accepted onto the grid as priority so electrical power produced at conventional stations is dumped/exported and others are even paid to take it away to avoid paying the €0.19/kWh (notionally “generated”) for not accepting electrical power from renewables. The export peaks (area above consumption line) coincide with generation from volatile sources as illustrated more clearly by the following.

      Over longer periods, Agora provides cummulative generation data and draw pretty charts like this one. Solar doesn’t feature strongly. You can click on a button and see a whole year’s worth of typical PV supply.

      Over the year; conventional does all the heavy lifting. PV solar peaks for short periods, but has never achieved “installed capacity” (GWp)

      German Federal Bureau of Statistics said

      Gross electricity production in 2013: 24% came from renewable energy sources

      Approximately 634 billion kilowatt hours of electricity were produced in Germany in 2013, 24% of which came from renewable energy sources. While regenerative energy sources accounted for almost one quarter of total electricity production in 2013, their share amounted to only 7% in 2000.

      At the time, the most important renewable energy source had been water power (4%). In 2013, green electricity was generated mainly from wind power (8%), biomass (7%) and photovoltaics (5%).

      1. Henning Nielsen

        Thanks for this info. So, last year, wind and sun in Germany accounted for 15% of the electricity, and hydro and biomass for 9%.

        So often we hear just “renewables 24%…wind and sun…”, omitting the other sources.

  2. ES

    They have an excuse now.

    Scientists in the United States have discovered a virus that infects people’s brains and makes them stupid.

    1. Streetcred
  3. Loodt Pretorius

    The Dutch are so daft, but, then they never had a full set of cards did they. Exchanging New Amsterdam for the Cayman Islands at the treaty of Breda, and its been downhill ever since then.

    1. jeff todd

      I have to agree, that famous Dutch explorer Abel Tasman discovered Tasmania. What on earth was he smoking that he missed the huge big island, not a million miles away, just above it? How did he miss it on the way home?

    2. R2D2

      We traded New York for Surinam I think.

      I am ashamed to be a Dutch engineer these days 🙂

      1. DirkH

        No reason for that.
        Dutch flood defenses:

  4. Greg

    I suppose if you stop on the path to talk to a friend you will be fined for casting a shadow on the panels.

  5. Betapug

    Not shown is the fact that trees to the left in the above photo shade the glass cycle path completely. I suppose they will have to be cut down to save the planet.

    The expert American grant miners Scott and Julie Brusaw behind this are presumably Scott and Julie Brusaw who managed to raise $2.2 million with a virtual reality crowdsourcing campaign.

    1. Alex B

      You are not familiar with the area so you are jumping to wrong conclusions about the trees. The bike path runs east-west. The trees are on the other side of a double track railway line. Not a chance in life that they get in the way with their shadows. So there is quite a lot to mock about this project, but the trees are not an issue.

      1. stan stendera

        That won’t stop the greens from chopping them down. They like killing living things.

      2. Betapug

        If you look at the photo of the cranes lowering the massive concrete sections into position you will see that the entire visible section of the path is in shadow from the trees.

  6. lemiere jacques

    sooooooo green!!!!!

  7. Bengt Abelsson

    A fool and his money are soon parted.

    1. Graeme No.3

      Ah, but this time it is a fool wasting your money.

    2. Curious George

      Where exactly does this money go?

  8. Billy

    They can power three houses if they only want power around noon on Warm sunny days.

  9. Moose

    I am guessing to Brussels as the Dutch will have to pay a fine of around 624 million euro’s.

  10. John F. Hultquist

    A bit late, but see below ~~~

    The panels have a hard coating and a rough surface (so one doesn’t slip and fall).
    I wonder if birds will think they are over water and dive into or try to land on them just as a bike comes along. That could be messy.
    On warm sunny days – best time to go for a bike ride. The electrical output will drop as the crowd increases. So, next they will charge a conpensatory fee to ride and pay for the cost of the lost power. What a concept.
    Yesterday, I could not log onto the server – intermittently. The message was:
    Fehler beim Aufbau einer Datenbankverbindung

  11. Steve C

    $3.7 million for “enough electricity to power… three households”? Yes, that sounds like a reasonable estimate of how much “green” energy costs. Do Greens ever stop to think how outrageous so much of their propaganda sounds to the rest of us?

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