France plans to install solar-panels on its roads in order to provide its citizens clean energy. The French Minister of Ecology and Energy, Ségolène Royal, stated that the French government is planning to install 620 miles (1000 kilometers) of solar panels on their roads and the amount of solar energy would be beneficial to 5 million French people. This development will take five years and it will be able to provide energy up to 8 percent of country’s population. The French road builder Colas and the National Institute of Solar Energy are working together and the project is called the Wattway project.
Colas is a leading solar panel provider and has won the Climate Solutions Award at the COP21 United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris late last year. According to the company’s website, the panels, which are 7mm thick and composed of photovoltaic cells are arranged like tiles pattern in a polycrystalline silicon layer which will be placed on road surface and skid-resistant and adhere directly to the roadway. The panels are strong enough to support all types of vehicles, including trucks. Each kilometer of Wattway panels are capable of providing enough clean energy to power 5,000 homes. Colas’ technology is innovative, compared to other photovoltaic solutions, in that it does not require to rip out the existing road infrastructure.
It is expected that France will start to test solar-panels on the road surface in spring. There isnt any information on which roadways will be covered with the Wattway panels, or how much the project will cost. Though according to the colas site “the cost with Wattway is estimated at 6 euros/watt-peak.” Though it should be noted that conventional photovaltaic panels have a higher energy yield, at 18%, while the Wattway panels have a 15% energy yield, making them inferior. A proposal has also been put forward from the government to raise taxes on petrol to support France’s transport infrastructure costs, which could help financially support the Wattway project.
There are also other projects like the Wattway.
In 2014, the Netherlands built a 70-meter solar panel bike path near Amsterdam that might be able to generate enough electricity to power three houses. The project cost $3.7 million and surpassed expectations after it generated electricity that saved about $2,000 in electricity costs for that first year.
Japan is also working on a different distribution of solar panels and has been working with the Solar power company Kyocera. The solar power plant is made of about 9,000 waterproof solar panels that float on top of polyethylene on a reservoir and is able to produce around 2,680 megawatt hours per year.
SOURCE| Illustration: Kyocera Corp.
Solar Roadways is also working on research and development of solar panels for use on roads for the near future. They were awarded a new 2-year $750,000 contract by the Federal Highway Administration for research.
There is a trend in solar energy and new initiatives like the Wattway introduce new applications for capturing solar energy. Who knows maybe in the future all roads will be able to capture solar energy and we will finally have an efficient system that provides clean energy.