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Dutch tap solar heat from asphalt roads

It's like an outdoor radiant floor heating system. It melts ice and the excess energy can help heat or cool buildings.

A Dutch civil engineering company has designed a heat-absorbing road that bridges winter and summer.

Road Energy Systems: using summer sun to clear icy roads. Ooms Avenhorn

The Road Energy System, from Ooms Avenhorn Holding, is essentially an asphalt road with tubes placed underneath. Water circulates to siphon off the heat from the road and it is stored underground for several months.

The heated road, sort of like radiant floor heating in a home, was originally conceived as a way to melt ice from roads without heavy salting.

Now, with growing interest in renewable forms of energy, the system can also be used to heat and cool homes while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent.

A current project is using the high-tech road to heat four office buildings. The stored heat is used in conjunction with a heat pump to reach temperatures high enough to warm a building.

The system costs twice as much as existing road-building techniques, Ooms Avenhorn Holdings told the Associated Press, but it should reduce maintenance and cut down on accidents from icy roads.

It's not clear how general-purpose heated roads will be. But the Road Energy System appears to work: its first installation has been operating since 2000.

Ooms Avenhorn has also designed floating houses, which were designed to save space.