Germany‘s world-renowned Autobahn is turning eco-friendly. Autobahns are a network of high-speed highways, where you can drive as fast as you like. These roads cover 2.6% of Germany’s highway network and are an attraction to speed lovers. But they are definitely not eco-friendly. As driving fast increases CO2 emission greatly.
Now researchers from both Germany and Austria are trying to find a way to make Autobahns more environmental friendly. They have started a three years-long project to determine if it is possible to install canopies with solar power systems covering autobahns. Doing this could contribute to the energy transition in Germany.
Considering that the Autobahn’s network is 13,000km long, and assuming that the solar panel used have a capacity of 180 watts per square meter, a theoretical capacity of 56 GW can be achieved, which is massive. But it is not possible to use all of the autobahn’s networks for solar power because of tunnels, shadowy stretches, and roads going below the bridges.
According to Martin Heinrich, the head of the PV module products team at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) this canopy can produce some 47 TWh of clean energy per year.
Henrich has also said that “It is difficult for me to specify a technological potential here, even as a percentage, we have to analyze that first.” Using this system as a means to provide electricity isn’t the only benefit. Henrich said that “If there is too much moisture, snow or ice, it is not so good for streets,” Heinrich explains. “And if you cover the street, you can also put PV modules directly on top and thus also have an energy yield.”
The researchers now are planning to build a demonstration on a 20-40 meter stretch of the Autobahn, most likely in southern Germany. It is to test and study energy yield and to monitor drainage, wind and snow loads, stability and safety, maintenance options, and traffic safety.
Heinrich said “That will be a trial object to monitor whether the things we have considered during the project phase, will actually make sense and work,” The estimated price for these solar canopies on the Autobahns may cost equal or higher than those of PV installations on private homes, which means about €300 per square meter ($355). According to German magazine Der Spiegel, the total cost of this project would most likely surpass €100bn.
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