Motorway central reservations could be turned into solar farms

Motorway verges and central reservations are a significant potential source for solar energy, government roads department Rijkswaterstaat has told broadcaster NOS.

The agency, which owns the spaces close to the roads, has calculated that solar panels could generate 1.2 to 4 terrawatt hours of electricity – enough for hundreds of thousands of households.

The department is currently carrying out ten pilot projects to investigate if the land around the motorways is suitable for solar panels, for instance by measuring glare and noise.

‘We need to sort out these things first,’ programme manager Sten Heijnis told the broadcaster. ‘We are first and foremost concerned with safety and traffic flow. We can’t have dangerous situations on the roads.’

Solar panels could well be the future for motorway verges, Steijnis said. ‘People are not very enthusiastic about wind turbines. We are looking at what the locals want. There are plenty of places where solar power could be a good alternative.’

The most advanced pilot is what has been dubbed the ‘Drentse Zonneroute’ (Drenthe sun route) along the A37. The 40 kilometer stretch of motorway between Hoogeveen and the German border is expected to generate 200 megawatts, which will provide enough electricity for around 50,000 households.

The solar panels in Drenthe will ‘blend in with the landscape’, provincial deputy Tjisse Stelpstra said.

‘They will not be raised structures and the colours will coincide with the environment,’ he said. Such innovations will make the projects more expensive, Stelpstra said. ‘But while it’s true you can only spend a euro once you don’t get a second chance once you’ve ruined the landscape either.’

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