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Europe’s first bike path covered with solar panels unveiled in Germany

Early this year, newsreaders were treated to footage of German police forcibly evicting climate activists from the village of Lützerath to make way for an open-air coal mine. Germany may have even averted a looming energy crisis last winter increase coal consumption.

While prioritizing energy independence may have led to a detour from the transition to renewable energy sources, the country’s goal is to be climate neutral by 2045: five years ahead of the EU target. One small step, but one step nonetheless, is Europe’s first solar-roof bike path that opened this week in the city of Freiburg, about two hours south of Stuttgart.

The photovoltaic (PV) pilot project consists of a 300-meter installation with more than 900 transparent glass solar panels and will generate approximately 280 MWh of solar energy per year. According to Solarwatt, the producer of the panels that cover the path, they are particularly durable, because the solar cells are enclosed in robust glass plates at the front and back.

Existing infrastructure is playing an increasingly important role

The cleantech company now has three decades of experience making solar panels and currently employs more than 800 people across Europe. In 2022, it acquired Utrecht based battery storage specialist REConvert for an undisclosed sum, establishing a Dutch subsidiary.

Solarwatt CEO Detlef Neuhaus believes that a rethink of photovoltaics will be essential for Germany’s transition to clean energy, seeing an untapped potential in the infrastructure already in place.

“Already closed areas such as parking lots, paths and roads play an increasingly important role,” says Neuhaus said. “We are proud to have been able to contribute to the success of this innovative pilot project.”

Woman riding bicycle under solar powered roof