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World's First Solar Panel Road Just Opened in France!

Dec 26, 2016 08:05 AM EST

France has just opened what it says is the world's first solar panel road in a Normandy village. The road is a whopping one-kilometer route in the small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche covered with 2,800 square meters of electricity-generating panels.

They were inaugurated last week by ecology minister Segolene Royal. According to Business Insider, the entire project cost €5-million to construct. It will be used by around 2,000 motorists a day during a two-year trial to see if it can generate enough energy to power street lighting in the village of at 3,400-strong residents.

According to the Guardian, it can be remembered that a solar-powered cycle path has opened in the Netherlands in 2014. Despite problems, it was able to generate 3,000 kWh of energy, which is enough to power an average home for a year.

However, the cost of the cycle path may have been paid for 520,000 kWh.The panels were first tested at four car parks across France. Constructor Colas is part of a giant telecommunication group Bouygues, and was financed by the state.

Now the solar-powered road is collectively known as the Wattway. Normandy, meanwhile, is not known for its sunshine: Caen, the region's political capital, enjoys only just 44 days of strong sunshine per annum, this is versus 170 in Marseilles.

Royal said she would like to see the panels installed on one in every 1,000 kilometers of French highway -- with the country having a million kilometers of roads. However, panels laid on flat surfaces have been found to be less efficient than those installed on slopes such as roofs.

However, the project has not always been met with sunshine. Critics say it's not cost-effective, especially when using public money. Other say we first have to look at the cost, the production of electricity, and the whole lifespan of the project to see where everything goes.

However, Colas said the panels have been covered with a resin containing fine sheets of silicon. This makes them enough to withstand all traffic, including heavy vehicles. The company hopes to reduce the costs of producing the panels and has about 100 other projects for solar-panelled roads.  

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