As efficiency and durability improves in solar panels, we're seeing them installed in more and more creative places. In recent years, we've seen solar panels on rooftops, and of course, in a large scale in solar farms. Now, solar panels might take over our sidewalks. One exciting new company, Platio, is working on just that. Their latest solar sidewalk is paired with an electric vehicle charging station at Prologis, a local real estate developer in Hungary.
The sidewalk measures at 50 square feet and has a peak capacity of 720 watts. Solar cells inside of the sidewalk are protected from recycled plastic, letting anyone walk on it without any disturbance to energy generation. Platio has installed their technology in front of a mall in Astana, Kazakhstan, and next to park benches for charging devices.
Since Prologis focuses on green solutions in their development, they were a perfect testing center for the new solar sidewalk. The addition of an EV charging was beneficial as the sidewalk is near the company parking lot. If the charging station isn’t being used, energy generated from the sidewalk helps power an office building next to it.
“It is important for us to find key partners who support innovative technologies and can give us a chance to try new fields of applications,” Miklós Illyés, co-founder of Platio, said in a Prologis blog post. “With the help of Prologis, we managed to install our first solution for EV charging stations, which is a significant milestone for us and our mission to contribute to e-mobility.”
When the sidewalk is generating power from the sunlight, that energy can be used in public areas. For example, it could provide the juice needed for running street lights or people can easily charge their mobile devices at hubs and benches while waiting for transportation. This also opens up another way to generate solar energy and store it in batteries.
The startup had durability and safety in mind when developing the sidewalk. A large impact of 10 tons would be needed to break one of the squares. Even then, a fracture pattern keeps the glass in one piece and it would still be safe to walk on even if destroyed. With how it’s installed, the sidewalk requires special tools to raise, preventing theft and wear after heavy use.
To keep from people slipping on the walkway, Platio has developed various slip protections based on the situation. Aluminum oxide provides plenty of friction in both hot and cold areas. Clear hydrophobic polymer can also be used to prevent water from forming between the person’s shoe and the surface of the sidewalk.
At the moment, solar sidewalks wouldn’t be feasible large-scale energy solutions. Their efficiency is limited, especially compared to mounted panels that can generate more power. However, as this technology evolves, it will be interesting to see its many possibilities. Days of walking around with our mobile devices charging simultaneously may not be far off.