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Tokyo Planning Solar Roads for Olympics

Monday, June 18, 2018

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Four years after the first solar roadway was installed in the Netherlands, the technology is getting play in Tokyo, where it will be implemented ahead of the 2020 Olympics in a bid to show off green tech in the Japanese capital.

Solar road panels
Solar Roadways

The U.S. company Solar Roadways recently announced its first manufacturing partnership. (Appearance of Solar Roadways panels doeos not necessarily represent those to be used in Tokyo.)

According to The Japan News, the Tokyo metropolitan government plans to install roadway surfaces consisting of solar panels coated in a tough resin that will withstand the stresses of traffic. The first pilot projects will reportedly see the solar pavement laid down on properties owned by the government.

Prior Installations

The first solar road was installed in the Dutch town of Krommenie in 2014 on a bike path; since then, solar pavement has been installed on a motorway in France in the village of Tourouvre-au-Perche.

Earlier this year, a stretch of solar road installed in China’s Jinan province, was closed days after opening when it was discovered that some of the solar panels had been stolen or damaged.

The Japan News reports that solar pavement has already been installed in one location in Japan: A 7-Eleven store parking lot in Kanagawa Prefecture, where, the newspaper reports, the solar panels have the potential to generate 9 percent of the power used by the store yearly.

An American company, Solar Roadways, has been working on perfecting its plans for glass-covered solar panels for paving highways; the company has received $1.6 million in federal grants and raised more than $2 million privately to support its technology. Earlier this year, Solar Roadways announced its first manufacturing partnership, with Ohio firm E-Mek.

Solar roadways are one of a number of novel installation methods for solar panels, serving as a way to work renewable-energy collection into everyday structures. The initial cost, though, is seen as a barrier to the technology going mainstream: One kilometer of roadway in France reportedly cost $5.2 million to build.


Tagged categories: Infrastructure; Roads/Highways; Solar energy

Comment from John Ducote, (6/27/2018, 12:05 PM)

This is just a really dumb idea. Roadways are a really bad place to put solar panels, especially when compared to roofs. First and most obvious, on roads they will be susceptible to damage from being driven over by vehicles including large semi trucks. Even concrete and asphalt roads do not hold up very well to large and heavy trucks. Sure, it is possible to make the panels so rugged they could stand up, but then that makes already-expensive solar panels incredibly more expensive. Why make them that expensive so that you can put them in a place that is bad for other reasons? Roads are flat, so the panels cannot be inclined to face the sun, making them much less efficient, compared to roofs which already are naturally inclined (or even on flat roofs the panels can still be installed inclined). Also, roads, being low on the ground are typically shaded by trees and buildings. Plus, putting panels on/in roads means you have to install new electrical connections to the power grid. Roofs on the other hand are part of buildings which are already connected to the grid. I cannot believe this idea has gained so much traction, all due to some slick marketing video “Solar Freaking Roads!".

Comment from trevor neale, (6/28/2018, 9:59 AM)

In many cities traffic congestion would prevent solar energy ever reaching the road surface, maybe on the roofs of autos makes a better solution.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (7/2/2018, 12:18 PM)

Cheaper and far more effective to just put them over and/or alongside the roadway. Some places are experimenting with combining solar panels with agriculture, where there is too much sunlight for the intended crops.

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