France’s Solar Roadway Could Supply Power for Five Million
France has unveiled plans to cover 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) of roads in solar panels by 2020, following a five-year research effort by road construction company Colas and the French National Institute of Solar Energy.
“The maximum effect of the program, if successful, could be to furnish five million people with electricity, or about 8% of the French population,” said Ecology and Environment Minister Ségolène Royal. France’s Agency of Environment and Energy Management calculates that a kilometre of solar roadway could meet the electricity needs of 5,000 people, excluding heat.
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The Wattway project relies on seven-millimetre panels of polycrystalline silicon that are rain-resistant, can withstand wear and tear from snowploughs, and include a heavy-duty, skid-resistant surface to reduce collisions.
“These extremely fragile photovoltaic cells are coated in a multilayer substrate composed of resins and polymers, translucent enough to allow sunlight to pass through, and resistant enough to withstand truck traffic,” according to a Colas news release.
“Roads spend 90% of their time just looking up into the sky,” said Jean-Luc Gautier of the Colas Scientific and Technical Campus. “It’s an ideal surface area for energy applications.”