Solar PV Roof for Highways

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  • Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, and the Austrian Institute of Technology, have developed a PV system solution for motorways.

The demonstrator consists of a PV system with a 10x17m roof area that has to be installed on a steel structure about 5.5m above the road. Construction on the pilot project is expected to begin next autumn and its operations will be then monitored for about a year. Based on the experience gained, further pilot applications may be implemented.

The project is part of the joint road construction research carried out by Germany, Austria and Switzerland. “With the research project, we want to develop the potential of the highways for the generation of renewable energies,” explained Steffen Bilger, German state secretary at the Federal Ministry of Transport. He emphasized that the roofing of a motorway is a particular technical challenge because of the fast-moving traffic underneath. “But the vision of using an area that has already been sealed off, for the generation of the energy that is needed underneath by electric vehicles, has to be pursued,” said Bilger.

The German Federal Ministry of Transport pointed out that building PV systems over roads is significantly more expensive than rooftop PV or ground-mounted solar plants. In the event of an accident on the road underneath, the supporting structure must be protected against a possible vehicle impact so that it does not collapse. To make matters worse, from a length of 80 meters, such supporting structures would have to be classified as similar to tunnels and the structure would then have to meet even higher safety requirements.

Although the modular construction of the demonstrator has some cost advantages, widespread use of solar roofs over motorways is not to be expected in the medium term, according to the ministry. In comparison, there is still a large potential for areas on which renewable energy can be generated less expensively. But for special, locally limited areas of application, the experts see possible uses for a solar roof over motorways.

Author: Ralph Diermann

This article was originally published in pv magazine and is republished with permission.


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