February 10, 2017

Sun Shines on Roadways in France

Sitara Mathur, Solar Incentive Fellow

Solar power: two words that most people are generally familiar with. Solar roadways, on the other hand, are two words not many people associate with one another. Thanks to new developments taking place in Europe, that’s about to change.

Beginning with SolaRoad in the Netherlands in 2014, the concept of solar roadways has taken off, with France moving into the driver’s seat. The French infrastructure firm Colas has teamed up with the French National Institute of Solar Energy to create the Wattway Project, a 1,000 kilometer (km) solar panel road. Over the next five years, France plans to build this roadway by laying seven-mm-thick polycrystalline silicon solar panel material atop preexisting roads. This is a huge step for the cleantech industry because it means that existing roads won’t have to be removed or replaced in order to incorporate the solar panels —they can simply be adapted into the pavement.

The panels are strong enough to withstand heavy vehicles and are skid-resistant. Furthermore, each kilometer of the solar roadway can provide enough photovoltaic electricity to cover the needs of 5,000 people. If this program is successful, it can supply up to 5 million people, or roughly 8 percent of the French population, with electricity. The French government will begin installation tests this spring, and the project will be funded by an increased tax on gas.

Looks like solar roadways have a bright future ahead! (Pun intended).