France Opened The world’s First Solar Road

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solar road

 A village in Normandy, France is proud to announce the opening of the world’s first solar road.

A “Wattway” road passes through the small town of Tourouvre-au-Perche. It’s 1-kilometre-long (0.6-mile-long) with 2,880 photovoltaic panels that will power the streetlights of the entire village.

The solar panels will produce 280-megawatt hours (MWh) of energy annually, with an estimated electrical output of 767-kilowatt hours (kWh) per day. The French Ministry of the Environment, Ségolène Royal financed the Wattway project and entrusted it to Colas engineering firm. Royal says that it will provide public lighting for a population of 5,000.  If the weather cooperates, Tourouvre-au-Perche’s 3,400 residents should have their nights lit up by the Sun from now on.

Solar road
REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The cost of constructing the Wattway road is €5 million (about US$5.2 million). That is surely a large amount of money but Colas intends to reduce the cost of producing the panels and make it competitive.

Jean-Louis Bal, president of renewable energy union SER, said: “We have to look at the cost, the production [of electricity] and its lifespan. For now I don’t have the answers.”

Royal intends to build solar panels on one in every 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of French highway. Her plan is to finish the road in the next four years. As a result, 1,000 kilometers of roads will provide electricity to around 5 million people which are 8% of the France population.

It certainly is an ice breaking idea but there are several drawbacks to it. First of all, the price is sky high. Because of that, it is criticized for its non-effective use of public money. Furthermore, road solar panels are laid flat on the ground and therefore aren’t practical as solar angled rooftop panelings.

Colas is planning to test similar solar roads internationally in 2017 at around 100 locations half in France and half abroad.