France just opened the first of its solar roadways for vehicles, one of the world’s firsts. The stretch of solar pavement in is enough to generate power to light the village of Tourouvre-au-Perche in Normandy.
Funded by the French Ministry of the Environment, the one-kilometer road stretch was built at a hefty cost of €5 million ($5.2 million). Gracing the road inauguration was French Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal.
The road, developed by Wattway, consists of 2,800 square meters of solar panels and is covered with a coating that protects it from the estimated couple of thousand vehicles that may cruise over it each day.
Other Solar Road Projects
Various countries all over the world are gradually heeding the call for clean energy, and seem bent on creating solar-powered roadways. Last year, the Missouri Department of Transportation disclosed plans to upgrade a small stretch of the historic roadway Route 66 that originally ran from Chicago through America’s Midwest to California.
A few years ago, a 100-meter stretch of solar roadway that serves as a high-tech bike path was opened in Krommenie, Netherlands. It attracted more than 150,000 riders and served the important function of generating over 3,000 kilowatt-hours of energy.
The Netherlands solar bike path, called SolaRoad, has been met with some hesitancy by some people owing to the cost involved. On top of that, there have been challenges in finding materials able to tolerate certain climate conditions.
SolaRoad is a project of limited in scope vis-a-vis the one that is currently in the works in France. Some quarters think it is not ready for widespread adoption just yet.
French Takes the Solar Thrust Further
The French Ministry of the Environment conveyed how, in the near future, France’s road network will serve “a new functionality” of addressing the energy transition for green growth.
Each slab of France’s first solar road includes 15-sq-cm cells that form a thin layer of polycrystalline silicon, thereby transforming solar energy into electricity. It is treated to provide adherence equivalent to those of traditional road mixes.
Electrical production of the first solar road is estimated at 280,000 kWh per year. That is an average estimate of street lighting in a city with about 5,000 dwellers.
Part of the installation is a bus shelter with a solar panel and a fast electric-charging station. How the road will withstand the passage of typical cars and trucks passing through will be closely monitored.
France has taken a forward-looking stance when it comes to solar road projects that can supply power to millions. The French government has announced that it intends to pave 1,000 Km (621 miles) of a road with solar panels over the next five years.