French solar road aims to supply electricity to 5 million people whilst stretching over 1000km
Posted by Anna Carlini on 24 February 2016 at 10:15 am
Work to build the world's largest solar panelled road has started in France. The plan is for the road to stretch over 1000km, supplying electricity to 5 million people or 8% of the population.
The solar road will be laid with flexible Wattway PV panels which add a tiled effect. The road is expected to take 5 years to complete.
Although this will be the most ambitious solar road ever to be built, it will not be the first. A solar bike path has already been successfully installed in the Netherlands and is generating more electricity than had been expected. But, stretching across 70m of road it is significantly smaller in size!
The French solar road comes in the wake of this Dutch success and is to be funded by raising the tax on fossil fuels. This tax looks to have been made with the current low wholesale prices of oil, coal and gas in mind and the French minister of ecology and energy expects it to raise over £300 million towards the construction of the road.
The patented Wattway PV solar road solution has been developed over 5 years by French road maker Colas in partnership with the French national solar energy institute INES. Based on crystalline silicon, the panels are very thin yet also sturdy, skid-resistant and designed to last. They are applied directly to the existing road or pavement and can cope with heavy vehicles.
There are, of course, critics of the project who do not believe the panels will prove to be effective ways of producing electricity, who doubt the panels will be hardwearing enough to survive busy roads and do not consider the expense to be justified.
We will have to wait and see what happens, but this French solar road is certainly an innovative way to make the most out of our roads. Colas notes that French roads only have vehicles on them 10% of the time. If the solar road is successful it could pave the way for many similar projects in the UK and across the world. After all, does it not make sense to harvest energy from the sun-soaked ground where we can?
Video source: wattaway
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