Solar Highway Nears Completion

A solar energy project in Germany seeking to make better use of space taken up by roads by turning them into generators of clean electricity.

The first project located near Aschaffenburg is nearing completion. Covering 2.7 kilometers of the A3 highway tunnel roof, the array will provide enough electricity to power more than 600 average houses annually. The solar array consists of 16,000 Evergreen solar panels and the 2.8 megawatt solar installation is not only the first highway solar farm, but also one of Germany’s largest PV based renewable energy projects.

The investment in the project is AUD $37.5 million, which will be paid back through cost savings over a period of approximately 16 years.

One of the major challenges in any form of electricity generation is the issue of line loss. Energy is lost during the transmission of electrical energy across power lines. The losses occur through the conversion of electricity to heat and electromagnetic energy, even in the most efficient systems. A major factor in the amount of line loss experienced is distance. 

In many situations the source of the electricity can be quite some distance away from where it is consumed, therefore more electricity needs to be generated to compensate for the line loss. The more that needs to be generated, the more infrastructure required to create it and in the case of coal-fired generation, this can mean far more  more emissions.

Through a decentralised power generation system such as grid connect solar power systems on the rooftops of home and businesses and utilising roads in neighbourhoods as solar farms, line loss can be kept to a minimum while providing other benefits such as revenue generation opportunities for communities through feed in tariff programs.