French officials have opened the world’s first solar road in the region of Normandy, unveiling a 1-kilometre-long (0.6-mile-long) route covered in 2,880 photovoltaic panels.
The panels for the Wattway road have been developed for five years. The trial roadway, passes through the small town of Tourouvre-au-Perche. It’s expected to be used by approximately 2,000 motorists daily during a two-year test period, to see just how much electricity it can generate. But it is expected to be able to power the street lighting in the village of 3,400 inhabitants.
Marc Jedliczka, vice-president of Network for Energetic Transition (CLER), told Le Monde: “It’s without doubt a technical advance, but in order to develop renewables there are other priorities than a gadget of which we are more certain that it’s very expensive than the fact it works.”
The panels have been covered in a silicon-based resin that allows them to withstand the weight of passing big rigs, and if the road performs as expected, Royal wants to see solar panels installed across 1,000 kilometers of French highway.
Nowadays there are many countries experimenting with solar panels on the roads. For example Netherlands have 70 meters of solar road in operation since 2014 which is made in a form of a bike path.
There are numerous issues, however. For one, flat solar panels are less effective than the angled panels that are installed on roofs, and they’re also massively more expensive than traditional panels. Colas, the company that installed the road, hopes to reduce the cost of the panels going forward and it has around 100 solar panel road projects in progress around the world.
But so far, all eyes are on the little village of Tourouvre-au-Perche, to see if those solar roads can deliver on their promise and hopefully they will.