In February this year, the French government 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, reported Forbes.
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. So, with France building a 1,000 Km stretch, there seems to be a revolution in clean energy in the making.
The first tests will be done in March next year, according to French infrastructure company Colas, which has developed the photovoltaic road surface (called “Wattway”) to be used in the trials, 1-km-long section of road will be able to power public street lighting for a town of 5,000 inhabitants. This means that, once the project is completed, the new roadways will be able to supply electricity to 5 million people, or about 8% of the French population.
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.