In the Netherlands, a Dutch highway is giving traditional solar panels an exciting new twist. Instead of dark and semi-ugly slabs on top of a building, these solar panels are colorful, upright and can also be used as sound barriers. This clean energy transformation is happening along the A2 Highway near Den Bosch in the Netherlands. These multicolored solar panels will use a brand new renewable energy technology called LSC which stands for luminescent solar concentrators. These unusual looking panels don’t look anything like their typical metallic counterparts as they come in yellow, red and translucent. Unlike typically metallic solar panels, these are red, yellow, and translucent. They cost less, as well and that’s a main reason they are being used on this project instead of the standard silicon-based panels.
These solar panel sound barriers are being spearheaded by renowned professor Dr. Michael Debije of the Eindhoven University of Technology. According to him, we still don’t have enough solar options for harnessing the majority of sun light that hits the earth. The problem with standard solar panels on rooftops is that they need to tilt at a certain angle in order to be effective and in addition, they are ugly. “People don’t find them attractive, so it’s hard for a building designer to integrate them in a way people will accept,” he says. Not one to criticize without a viable solution, Dr. Debije’s new panel is more cost effective and is actually attractive. Each LSC solar panel is composed of sheets of plastic that, depending on the colored dye used, captures a particular wavelength of the sun, and then funnels that light towards the solar cells on the panel’s perimeter. While these solar panels look better there is a drawback as they are not as efficient as more traditional solar panels, having a four to eight percent efficiency rating as opposed to 13 to 15 percent range derived from the more common silicon panels. This efficiency is offset Debije believes by their wider use due to being more attractive; almost like stained glass.
Dr. Debije envisions LSC panels in many and various public spaces like park benches, bus stops and outdoor concert stages. These could harvest solar energy through their panels while the park benches could do double duty as both furniture and solar charging stations. The outdoor concert stages could harvest enough solar power to fully light and power both restroom and dining facilities.
The Netherlands-installed solar panel sound barriers won the Golden Decibel award in 2016 for great ideas in the public project category. Now they are part of a new construction project that will commence in early 2018 with full expectations to connect to the power grid in the same year. The solar highway sound barriers measure five meters high and four meters wide with the bottom two panels being filled with custom built solar cells that are unique to the project. 68 individual solar sound barrier units will be built along a 400 meter length of the highway. The country has 1,250 kilometers of highway solar sound barriers installed up to this point in time.
Look to solar news articles to track the progress of these double duty solar panels as they become more common in highway sound barrier applications and better looking than ever. This coincides with falling prices for solar technology and installations as The Netherlands has dropped costs for home and business installations to go solar in order to incentivize them to go lean in this direction. Expect solar news to carry an increasing number of similar stories as new and innovative applications for this clean energy are discovered.