What isn’t covered with shade, but could use it? What does the sun shine down on whenever the sun is out? Highways and bike lanes. There’s over 10 million miles of roads around the world. That’s a lot of opportunities for harvesting free solar energy from the sun, even on a cloudy day. While it may not seem like much right now compared to this extraordinary figure, South Korea has installed a 20 mile solar bike lane that is generating solar energy. It’s also sitting right in the middle of a highway.
South Korea has proven once again that it knows how to innovate. This is a very unique application of solar panels, by covering the bike lane with them. This not only provides free energy, but also much-needed shade for cyclists biking through the middle of a sometimes-hot highway.
There is a huge population density in South Korea, which can make it difficult to find places to get solar panels set up. Not only that, but they sometimes can look like an eyesore. The combination of practical application and aesthetic design is something South Korea has figured out.
Located between Daejeon and Sejong, this solar bike lane is currently 20 miles long. The genius in this setup is that it takes advantage of the space in between each direction a highway goes. This space does not take over any additional land outside of the highway, ensuring no further degradation to the environment is done.
Here’s an aerial view of this incredible feat:
Cyclists can get to the solar bike lane by using underground tunnels. The lane itself has reinforced guardrail protection on both sides of it, to ensure cyclists can bike safely and without the fear of getting hit by other vehicles. The solar panels are installed on the “roofs” situated above the bike lane, providing shade.
So, where does all that free electricity go that’s generated by these solar panels? Well, once the panels harvest the solar energy, it goes towards lighting up the lights on the highway. Additionally, energy goes to charging stations for electric cars.
Here’s a first-person look at what it’s like when you are on the solar bike lane itself:
Solar Roads Are Increasingly Popular
This isn’t the first time solar energy was generated on a bike lane. In 2014, the Netherlands created solar roads for cyclists. Beyond that, several other solar roads have popped up around Europe, including one that looks very eye-catching in Poland. This one, located in the Mazury area of the nation, actually glows blue at night!
— Paweł Jagiełło (@JagielloPawel) October 3, 2016
This solar bike lane in Poland, as many of the other examples that exist, has panels embedded into the bike lane itself. That’s what makes the one in South Korea so unique. By placing the solar panels above the bike lane, not only will the panels avoid getting damaged as much, but cyclists will get protected from the sun beating down on them, and even provide some reprieve from the rain.
Let’s hope more of these solar bike lanes start appearing in more areas!