SEJONG, South Korea — There is a five-and-a-half mile bike path sitting in the middle of an eight-lane highway, topped with a solar panel that lights up the streets below in South Korea.
But this is no regular bike path. What started as an idea to produce clean energy while simultaneously giving people a place to exercise, South Korea built this eco-friendly cycle lane that connects the cities of Daejeon to Sejong — the administrative capital of South Korea — in 2014.
The 13-foot-wide path set in the middle of a highway is unique in South Korea, where most bicycle paths are built adjacent to pedestrian roads. But what really makes the path stand out is its one-of-a-kind feature — a solar panel-lined roof.
With 7,502 solar panels installed at intervals of approximately 30 inches, the paneling covers 3 miles of the 5.5 mile cycling highway and are capable of producing an annual average of 2,200 MWh of eco-friendly electricity that powers many of the streetlights and electronic displays in Sejong. In fact, the solar panels produce an equivalent amount of energy to power approximately 600 households, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.
The Korea Western Power Co., Ltd. — the public corporation that constructed the solar panel bike road — is in charge of maintaining the solar panels to keep up the power efficiency.
“Solar panels in public facilities are part of a trend in clean energy,” Kim Geun-ho, a researcher from the Green Energy Institute based in the country, told ABC News. “At the beginning stage, solar power generation was mostly constructed in vast farmland and mountainous areas. It moved on to public facility rooftops, and finally have evolved to play the role of a shelter and power generator at the same time, in this case, a roof on top of a bike road.”
Several other metropolitan governments in South Korea have implemented the bike road with solar panels, but this one particular road in Sejong remains the longest and the only one set in the middle of a highway.
“This is the fastest bike road I can take from my home in Daejeon to my workplace in Sejong,” Park Yoon-soo who commutes to work every day using the solar panel bike road for the last two years, told ABC News. “I have always appreciated the solar panel roofs because they become a good shade under strong sunlight, and a roof when it rains.”
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