Infrastructure

Will California Put Solar Panels in Roads?

The state’s transportation agency is working with a Dutch company to explore the idea of generating electricity from its busiest highways.

by Harold Pierce, The Bakersfield Californian / April 1, 2016

(TNS) — Caltrans is partnering with a Dutch company to explore the possibility of installing solar panels beneath one of the state's busiest highways — including in Kern County — recreating a project that thus far has been tested only on a bike path in the Netherlands, officials announced this week.

The state transportation agency's director, Malcolm Dougherty, signed a letter of intent with Netherland officials looking into SolaRoad. The Dutch technology has been tested on a 236-foot bike path in Krommenie, Holland, but nowhere else. It cost $3.7 million and is still in a three-year test phase until 2017.

Now Caltrans officials are considering bringing that same technology to a rest area in Lebec.

“We're excited to explore the application of solar energy in Caltrans assets — everything from emergency power generation to provide self-sustaining maintenance stations to lighting signs and lamps, among others,” Dougherty said in an emailed statement.

The solar technology works like this: sunlight falling on the road is converted into electricity by concrete panels with solar cells and a translucent top layer made of tempered class. In turn, that electricity could be used for street lighting, traffic systems, electric vehicles and households, Caltrans officials said in a statement.

Details of a potential project are unclear, including how much it would cost, how many miles of road would be converted to solar panels and how it would impact road maintenance. Caltrans officials were unavailable for comment Thursday.

A group of Dutch representatives is joining Caltrans Friday to discuss the potential project.

©2016 The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.