The Path to the Future?

Did you know that today, November 22nd is “Go For a Ride Day”? The idea is that we all get outside and go for a ride on our bike, or even in our car. I ride my bike often, and I walk and run as much as possible, but this morning there’s 14” of snow at my house and by the time I left for work at 7:15, the snowplows still hadn’t even thought about touching my steep hill, so….looks like it’s a car ride for me today.

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So, what’s the significance of November 22nd?  It turns out this day plays a very important role in the history of transportation.

  • In 1904 Philadelphia, Mathias Pfatischer was the first person to patent the direct electricity/Interpol motor.
  • 23 years later, in 1927, Carl Eliason, another American inventory from Saynor, Wisconsin patented the snowmobile. There it is next to Carl in the photo below. With heavy snowfall in Wisconsin, you can bet this was a much appreciated, and even life changing, invention.
  • Skip forward 50 years to 1977. This is the year the famous supersonic Concorde started regular service.

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This day celebrates the freedom we gained through all the milestones in transportation history.

You wouldn’t think that biking would tie into the solar industry, but it does. High-tech solar powered bike paths are springing up all over the world. I want to focus on one in particular: Krommenie, Netherlands built a path they call SolaRoad. The path was the very first solar road in the world, opening to the public in November of 2014.

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Yeah, I know, this reminds us all of the Solar Freakin’ Roadways crowd funding campaign that went viral, but this is different – the Netherlands became the first country to actually put the idea into usable motion. The electricity generated from the road is fed back into the grid, and can be used to power street lights, traffic lights, and even electric cars.

The path’s panels are sandwiched between glass, concrete and silicone rubber, and they’re durable enough to support a 12 ton vehicle. The individual panels connect to a smart meter, optimizing overall output. And the best part is, if one panel is shadowed, or is covered in dirt, or is broken, only that one panel will switch off.

The protective coatings on the solar path are strong enough to handle heavy bike traffic, and the surface was also designed to give increased traction to the bicyclists and walkers who enjoy using the path.

Although the path is less than 250 feet in length, it generates a lot more electricity than originally expected. In the first 6 months alone, the road had already generated over 3,000 kWh! That’s enough energy to provide a one person household enough electricity for an entire year. Or another way to look at it, to power an electric scooter 2 ½ times around the world. Pretty amazing, right? That means that in 12 months, the electricity generated is enough to power 3 households for an entire year.

Like all new things, there are of course critics. I personally am on the fence. I love the idea, and I also know there are flaws, like the fact that the panels aren’t on an angle to collect the most energy, the cost per watt is higher than traditional rooftop installs, and the panels could get dirty. But so what? I also know that without innovators like TNO, who developed the path, we would never move forward. With anything.

Look back to 1927….without the invention of the snowmobile, we may have never even known that word, or that possibility. It sort of reminds me of that saying about the lottery: If you don’t play, you can’t win.

In my eyes, these guys are pioneers.

All of us here at EcoFasten Solar hope all of you have a warm, memorable and happy Thanksgiving!

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(Images from Days of the Year, Eliason Snowmobiles, The Epoch Times and Brunswick Green)

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