The Future of Green: Solar Sidewalks


**This is the newest installment of our blog series: The Future of Green. Every other Friday we will post a blog about a cutting-edge and futuristic innovation in the world of green technology. Technology is one of several barriers that stand between today’s society and a sustainable future. The innovators we highlight through The Future of Green are shattering these barriers. Make sure to tune in every other Friday for a glimpse into the future of energy and sustainability.

These days, solar panels seem to be showing up all over the place. Just last week, we highlighted developing technology that would allow windows to double as solar panels. But what about solar panels that double as sidewalks?

As it turns out, this technology already exists. Last month, George Washington University installed the first walkable solar-paneled pathway in the world. The walkway is 100 square feet and contains 27 PV panels.

The sidewalk has a peak capacity of 400 watts, which—for now—will be used to power 450 LED lights that will illuminate the walkway after dark. The sidewalk is part of the Solar Walk, which also includes a solar trellis that provides electricity for the campus’ Innovation Hall.

The panels were designed by Onyx Solar, a Spanish company that specializes in producing PV materials that also provide “acoustic insulation and UV/IR filters.” The company is well-known for creating the largest PV skylight in the US, located in East Hanover, New Jersey.

“We are excited to explore the potential of this newly patented product and participate with Onyx in its goal of furthering unique photovoltaic technologies,” said GW Senior Land Use Planner Eric Selbst.

For the solar sidewalk project, Onyx managed to overcome the traditional obstacles to walkable solar panels—namely durability and traction. The panels are slip-resistant and are durable enough to handle heavy foot traffic. Each panel can withstand over 850 pounds of weight.

“This project has proven to be an exciting example of the new innovation being designed and integrated into our university,” said one GW official.

While this technology is far from widespread implementation, its potential is undeniable. If we can cover sidewalks with solar panels and windows with solar panels, who’s to say we can’t cover roads with solar panels, for example? We’re not there yet, and we probably won’t be for awhile, but it doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore.

George Washington University is clearly at the forefront of the sustainability movement. Other colleges and universities, too, are pushing the limits of innovation. Over the course of the next week, we will be recognizing some of these universities for their sustainability initiatives. Be sure to check it out.