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Why these four cities are installing solarised bicycle lanes

Graphic: Sean Creighton/The Progress Playbook
Graphic: Sean Creighton/The Progress Playbook

Solar panels are being deployed in parts of Asia and Europe to improve cycling infrastructure and generate low-cost electricity at the same time.

Sejong, the de facto administrative capital of South Korea, was an early pioneer of this innovative dual-use application. In 2014, it installed a 5.5-mile (8.9 kilometre) double-lane, protected bike path in the middle of a highway, with panels raised about 10-feet off the ground.

The idea is to maximise land use, provide shading and dedicated, car-free lanes for cyclists, and to boost clean power generation.

The concept is catching on.

Hyderabad, India, recently opened a three-lane 23-kilometre solarised cycling route with 16MW worth of power generating capacity.

The “all-climate” solar roofing is complemented by lighting throughout the night and CCTV camera monitoring, says Santhana Selvan, aka the “bicycle mayor of Hyderabad”.

Selvan says the project is boosting wellbeing, safety, and commuting options, among other benefits.

“Feedback from cyclists on the track has been overwhelmingly positive, since they believe they are being recognised by the city and now have a safe place to move.”

Elsewhere, Switzerland’s first solarised cycle path opened in June 2023.

Panels were installed on a 200-metre stretch of road in Geneva to “assess the technical feasibility of such an installation”, according to utility SIG.

The prototype facility will produce 200,000kWh of electricity each year — the equivalent of the annual electricity consumption of 65 local households.

If successful, this solution could be expanded and replicated elsewhere in Switzerland, SIG said in a statement, adding that other projects in the region are already being considered.

“Ultimately, this type of achievement will make it possible to increase the production of renewable and local energy, while preserving the beauty of the territory and promoting soft mobility, sheltering users from the sun and bad weather.”

A smaller pilot project is being planned alongside the Rhône River in southern France. According to the consortium behind it, the project will “accelerate the integration of photovoltaic solar power” in the region while maximising land use.

Meanwhile, another use case for raised solar panels that’s gaining traction globally is agrivoltaics — whereby agriculture, water harvesting, and clean power facilities make use of the same land.

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