Generation potential of solar energy along the motorway

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In 2018 Witteveen+Bos carried out a study into the generation potential of solar energy along the A7 motorway in the Netherlands between Purmerend Zuid and Den Oever, in an integrated landscape design. The starting point was to design a ‘Zonneweg A7’ (A7 solar route), where the energy generation fits into the landscape and the motorway tells a story about the energy transition.

The Dutch motorway network features enormous diversity with many distinguishing features. The A7 is an example where generating sustainable energy should not disrupt these characteristics, and where possible it may even reinforce them. We therefore conducted an extensive landscape analysis in this study, considering views from the national highway, transverse structures in the landscape, and the four unique landscape ensembles and two urban zones through which the road runs.

Combined with the basic technical principles arising from, among other things, road safety and maintenance, we worked with Rijkswaterstaat to formulate three starting points for the generation of solar energy along the A7 motorway:

  1. landscape takes precedence over the national highway, so that the landscape remains dominant in relation to the infrastructural axis
  2. solar parks fit into the relevant landscape ensemble, whereby spatial characteristics are preserved or reinforced by interventions on and around the national highway
  3. local qualities and cross-structures exploit and emphasise the places where traffic speed is reduced, especially in the integration of solar panels in and around traffic intersections.

Alongside a landscape analysis, we included technical starting points, such as types of PV (solar) panels, different orientations, set-up variants and specials such as floating solar panels and integrating panels in noise barriers. We also held interactive mapping sessions with Rijkswaterstaat and the various stakeholders, so as to include them in the various options and considerations and to create support.

Our research shows that the technical and careful integration of solar energy into the landscape is possible, with the overall picture resulting in a positive business case. Three types of locations are suitable for the integration of solar panels on the researched route:

  1. small-scale repetitive elements of the national highway creating recognition and awareness
  2. a number of sections on Rijkswaterstaat areas parallel to the national highway
  3. the junctions (traffic connections) where the national highway is connected to the local landscape. The designs for the junctions, the type with the greatest potential, provide a total of 15.9 MW of installed solar power. This amount meets the electricity needs of 4,000 households.

This study was carried out in response to Rijkswaterstaat’s ambitions to be energy-neutral by 2030.

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