Dutch construction concern Heijmans opens traffic noise barrier with solar panels

The Dutch construction company Heijmans has collaborated alongside research organisation ECN part of TNO, Solar Energy Application Centre (SEAC) and the Dutch municipality of Uden to develop the pilot project Solar Highways. In this project, an initiative from the Dutch ministry of Infrastructure and Water management and Rijkswaterstaat, the parties have developed a traffic noise barrier that contains double sided solar panels to generate green electricity. The noise barrier is installed along the A50 high way of the city of Uden.

First large scale solar noise barrier

The collaborating parties state that this noise barrier is the first of its kind to have been installed with the so-called ‘bi-facial’ solar panels on such a large scale. The traffic noise barrier is 40 meters long. With the opening of Solar Highways in the city of Uden, the parties will begin with a test phase to monitor the noise barrier and measure its capacity to generate green electricity. The energy yield will be measured by the SEAC within a period of 18 months. The test phase will require different settings, such as methods to sufficiently clean the solar panels for them to generate the biggest amount of solar power possible. The results of the test will provide an indication of the energy generating capacity of the bi-facial solar panels, maintenance requirements and financial yields of future Solar Highways projects.

“As an innovative constructor, it is amazing to be able to realise sustainable ideas”, says Heleen Herbert, Chief Commercial Officer of Heijmans, in a press release. “We are very pleased to put our knowledge and experience of solar noise barriers to use. Earlier Heijmans has already worked on a solar noise barrier in the Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch and now another Solar Highway is installed in Uden. In the future, we hope that this project will continue to thrive in other cities as well.” The innovative project is also made possible by the LIFE+ finance program of the European Union.

Energy neutral and circular

During the opening of the Solar Highways on Monday the 18th of February, the minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, gave the start sign to the project. “In 2030 the ministry aims to become energy neutral, circular and use decrease the use of virgin materials by 50 percent”, she says in a press release. “That means we want to generate the same amount of energy that we use and work towards phasing out waste materials. This Solar Highway is a project that contributes to our objective and therefore a more sustainable Netherlands.”

Ton de Jong, director of research organisation ECN of TNO, said in the press release: “We are proud to have contributed to the most important step towards the upscaling of solar power. There are plenty of opportunities to increase the amount of solar noise barriers from 400 meters to hundreds of kilometers. There are also endless opportunities to implement the bi-facial solar panels on other infrastructure projects.”