France Wants to Install 1,000km Of Solar Powered Roadways Over 5 Years
Originally posted on Forbes online magazine.
In 2014, the Netherlands built the world’s first solar bike path, a 70-metre stretch named SolaRoad. The proof of concept performed even better than expected, generating, after six months, enough electricity to power a small household for a year.
Successful and fascinating as it is, the project is very limited in scope compared to the one that is currently in the works in France. The French government has announced that it wants to pave 1,000 Km (621 miles) of road with solar panels over the next five years. The announcement was made by the minister of ecology and energy, Ségolène Royal, during a press conference.
Colas’ technology is innovative, compared to other photovoltaic solutions, in that it does not require to rip out the existing road infrastructure, or make any kind of civil engineering work: Wattway panels are composed of cells inserted, in superposed layers, inside a thin film of polycrystalline silicon which can be applied directly on the pavement.
The cells are encapsulated in a resin substrate, to keep them rainproof, and the composite material is just a 7 mm thick, making it possible to adapt to thermal dilation in the pavement.
There’s no indication, right now, of which roadways will actually be covered with Wattway, or of how much exactly the project will cost.