Unique field test started for Solar Noise Barriers

Generating electricity by means of solar cells in noise barriers 

June 18, 2015

In ’s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, a field test involving solar noise barriers, or SONOB, is launched. For the duration of one year, the possibilities of generating electricity by means of solar cells in noise barriers along Dutch national motorways and railroads will be investigated. It is the first time in the Netherlands that such a field test is carried out, on full scale, using a diversity of solar cells and panels.

The field test of the SONOB (Solar Noise Barriers) project will give more insight into the quantity of electricity be semi-transparent noise barriers generate under varying circumstances. The results will be used to map future applications of solar noise barriers and their economic and technical feasibility. The project will contribute to the further development of solar noise barriers and their large-scale application in public areas. Today, some 1,250 kilometres of noise barriers have already been installed along Dutch motorways and railroads.

About the field test

The two noise barriers that are used for the field test have a width of 5 metres and a height of 4.5 metres. They contain different solar cells and panels. Other practical matters included in the test are vandalism-proofness and maintenance. By carrying out the test in a public space, the development is accelerated while providing valuable results that cannot be obtained in a laboratory environment.

The first test results have already demonstrated that 1 kilometre of solar noise barriers will generate enough power to provide 50 homes with electricity for a year, or to supply an electric car with the energy to drive 900,000 kilometres.

The SONOB project is carried out by Heijmans, TU/e, Van Campen Industries, SEAC, Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands, and ECN, and is sponsored by the municipality of ’s-Hertogenbosch, Willemspoort, SPARK campus, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, and Scheuten.

Reactions of parties involved

"In the Netherlands there are sufficient noise barriers. And the necessary solar cell technology is available as well. Our field test involves simple arithmetic. We investigate the possibilities to integrate solar cell technology in noise barriers in a robust and aesthetic way," Stijn Verkuilen, SONOB project leader with Heijmans, explains. "Heijmans focuses on innovation. This means we embark on more innovative projects while also collaborating with other parties - both within and outside of our own sector. SONOB is an example of this."

Striking features include coloured, transparent panels. These concern a completely new type of energy source, which was developed by the Eindhoven University of Technology. These so-called luminescent solar concentrators, LSCs, will catch light and lead it to the side of the panel, where the light is stored, in concentrated form, in traditional solar cells. "With their colours, LSCs are much more attractive, which is an advantage when used in the built environment," TU/e researcher Michael Debije revealed. "Moreover, the material is inexpensive, it can be supplied in any colour, it is robust, and the LSCs will even work in overcast conditions. The advantages are myriad."


The possibilities of Solar Noise Barriers along Dutch national motorways and railroads will be investigated.

"Like in space, there is a great demand for maximum energy generation under extreme circumstances. SONOB is a fine example of how space technology can be applied to provide an innovative solution in another sector," Arnaud de Jong, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands, explained.

"The Dutch ambitions for sustainable energy require a broad look on the integration of solar energy in the built environment. It’s not enough to solely look at roofs," Wiep Folkerts, director of SEAC, said. "Other areas of application include noise barriers, dumps, and even road surfaces. SEAC uses an approach in which technology is combined with economic analysis and collaboration within the chain."

"What makes Solar Noise Barriers unique is that they are based on the modular noise barriers of Rijkswaterstaat (The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment). This makes them suitable for new projects with existing noise barriers", states Rob van Kemenade, commercial director at Van Campen Industries BV. "This unique collaboration between various parties shows that innovating in the built environment leads to quick results which can be applied in practice."