Solar Highways is an innovative and sustainable initiative by Rijkswaterstaat and its partners ECN and SEAC. It is a demonstration project for a noise barrier which both absorbs traffic noise and generates energy. The noise barrier generates electricity on both sides via solar cells which are integrated into the noise-resistant construction. The European Commission has awarded a LIFE+ programme grant for the implementation of this project.
The Solar Highways project was initiated and commissioned by Rijkswaterstaat, which is also responsible for its coordination, the tendering process on the market and communications on the project. Rijkswaterstaat is cooperating on the project with the Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) and the Solar Energy Application Centre (SEAC). ECN is developing the prototype and monitoring the energy generated by the barrier. SEAC is linking the research to practice. The company is charting national and international use of solar cells in noise barriers and establishing the cost and yield. The two parties are also providing input for invitations to the market for tendering.
The project will construct a 400-metre long and 5-metre high barrier, of which the upper metres comprise double-sided solar cells. The integration of the double-sided solar cells into the noise barrier and the large-scale practical application are unique and innovative. The panels on the barrier will face East-West in order for it to absorb sunlight on both sides. The morning and afternoon sunshine will therefore be used to the full.
The noise barrier should generate enough to provide about 40 households with ‘green’ electricity. The project will therefore contribute to the Dutch national energy agreement for sustainable growth. The energy agreement aims to generate 16% of the Netherlands’ energy from renewable sources by 2023.
The project is investigating the practical and financial feasibility of a noise barrier built from construction elements containing double-sided solar cells. The project’s sub-objectives are:
- A demonstration of the technical feasibility of integrating solar cells into common and widely-applicable construction elements for noise barriers.
- The development of an economically-feasible technical and organisational implementation model for wider application in the future.
- The development of a prototype with integrated double-sided solar cells.
- A full-scale demonstration over a 400-metre long stretch.
- Monitoring the energy generated and management aspects during an eighteen-month practical trial period.
- Presentation of a business case for the barrier compared to current practice.
- Communication and dissemination of the results and added value of the integrated PV modules.
- Cooperation with stakeholders