The first road covered with solar panel

Jan 12, 2017 | written by:

1 Km paved with 2800 square meters of solar panels. These are the numbers of the first French solar panel road (we already wrote about this a year ago) officially opened just before Christmas by the France’s Minister of Environment Ségolène Royal. For the Eiffel Tower’s country, this is a significant step forward in the field of renewable energy and also an operation unique in the world.

It is not the first time you hear of similar solutions concerning road communications. In June 2016, Sweden inaugurated the first electric highway, but the 2km interested only hybrid heavy vehicles (powered by electricity as trolleybuses). Even Germany and the Netherlands in 2014 made bike paths with solar panels; while the Veranu startup last year proposed to fill the streets with special tiles that convert the kinetic energy of the pedestrians steps into clean electricity. But the French road surpasses previous experiments in this field: for the first time all transports can travel this road, both cars and trucks, all generating clean energy.

It has been paved with solar panels, composed of small cells of 15 cm per side, which form a thin surface capable of converting solar energy into electricity, a part of the state highway RD5 near Tourouvre au Perche, Normandy. The technology, dubbed Wattway, is also resistant to the stress of traffic and is able to provide the energy for a near town of about 3000 inhabitants. The electricity production of the road has been estimated to be 800 kWh per day on average.

The enthusiasm of this step towards clean energy, however, is hampered by the high costs and the time needed for the realization: five years during which the French state paid about 5.2 million Euros to bring energy to only the 8% of the French population. The particularly high costs of these special solar panels depend from the fact that they must also perform as asphalt substitute function, allowing vehicles safety movements. Nevertheless, Colas, the company in charge of the project, hopes to reduce the production costs of the panels and has confirmed that it has already in the pipeline other 100 projects of roads with solar panels.

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