A footpath that generates energy and new buildings that supply energy to older buildings: Making City focuses on making cities more sustainable. In Groningen, a host of projects are already underway.

Original Article by Innovation Origins, written by Ewout Kieckens, to read detailed article please click Here


When it comes to making cities more sustainable, the term ‘energy neutrality’ is often mentioned. This is usually the starting point. But what if homes, office buildings and public spaces produce a surplus in the future, and offset the loss of energy from old buildings that way? In the Dutch city of Groningen, a footpath that generates solar energy and uses this to power buildings will be laid in March. The footpath is part of the European Making City project. “We’re getting people to look at the space around them in a different way,” says project manager Jasper Tonen, who works for the Municipality of Groningen.

Little by little, European cities will be generating more and more energy in the future, as opposed to just consuming energy. This is one of the aims of the European Commission. The EC launched Making City, and in November 2018 designated a select number of cities to serve as examples for the rest of Europe. Groningen is one of them, as is Oulu in Finland. In Groningen, efforts are now underway to improve the public space. A footpath that generates solar energy will be installed in the city This is a primeur for Groningen.

The footpath, which contains solar collectors under a layer of raw glass, will be located near an apartment complex on Europa Park and the energy it generates will go to a municipal building in the nearby neighborhood. “This footpath is an example of how to use space in the city in a smart way,” says Tonen. “We want Groningen to be energy-neutral by 2035. We’re already on track to do that by building solar parks and putting more solar panels on roofs, among other things. This path adds to that all very nicely.”

Solar cycle paths
There are already several cycle paths in the Netherlands that generate energy. Utrecht, for example, has constructed the longest solar cycle path in the world. But the lessons learned from these kinds of bicycle lanes cannot be applied directly to solar footpaths. A great deal of research will need to be carried out once the footpath is in place. Tonen explains why. “Footpaths have a different type of surface. We use 30 by 30 centimeter tiles. So, what is the best way to fit the solar panels into a tile? The footpath should not be too slippery for safety reasons, and it should also be easy to clean. We need to examine how the footpath will look over the years. What’s more, pedestrians really do need to use it. That last point seems like a very obvious one, but it’s really important to know the answer.”


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