The Florida city is an unlikely candidate to take on the Netherlands’ legacy. It has problems with biking and solar, according to the Miami New Times. It’s “one of the most dangerous biking cities in America and has lagged far behind in sun-generated power.”
But it’s in southern Florida. It’s flat. There’s a lot of sun. So City Commissioner Ken Russell is putting 4 and 4 together and proposing an idea that is getting national acclaim — but laughter at City Hall.
“Russell’s project, which is called Brighter Days and includes nearly a dozen partners from local nonprofits and engineering groups, would aim to prove the viability of energy-generating roadways by building a 100-meter-long stretch of solar panel-lined bike path through the Omni neighborhood,” the New Times reports. Ideally, Russell would like to see the path’s solar panels wired directly into a nearby affordable housing project.
It sounds a little pie-in-the-Florida-sky, but Russell’s proposal is actually a finalist for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sunshot Prize, a challenge that offers a total of $10 million to several winners with the aim of spurring “innovation for improving the going solar experience from permit to plug-in for all Americans,” according to Energy.gov.
Russell is also starting a GoFundMe campaign with the aim of raising $100,000. He’s got $80 so far.
Russell and SolaRoad, the company behind the Netherlands’ solar bike path, are not the only ones thinking about how transportation infrastructure can serve multiple purposes. Snow-melting solar roadway technology is being tested in Idaho. And Virgin Media gave a little town outside London a makeover in 2015 — by burying a public WiFi network in its sidewalks.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.