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France Unveils World's First Solar-Paneled Roadway

Jan 27, 2017 08:18 AM EST

France has just become the site of the world's first solar-paneled roadway. Wattway deployed on the streets of Tourouvre-au-Perche a massive 1,000-meter long solar-paneled roadway. The roadway is part of the company's 1,000-kilometer goal.

According to a report from Web Urbanist, the initial pathway was designed to generate enough electricity to light up the streets of a 3,400-person town. This is just the first step of a big five-year initiative. France wants to create 1,000 kilometers of solar roads all over the country over the next few years. This will allow the country to give enough energy for 5 million people or about 10 percent of the population.

In a video of the Wattway road, the flat and smooth surfaces of the country's existing streets are good places to set up the solar panels. They can serve a second function and harvest clean energy, as long as durability of the panels themselves are taken into account.

The solar brick-like sheets attached to the roads are covered with multiple silicon layers. These are designed to allow light to pass through while protecting the panels from damage. They are apparently tough enough to withstand the weight of six-axle trucks. They also stick directly onto existing road surfaces.

Interestingly, the goal of the first phase of the plan is to produce 280-megawatt hours of power annually and to test the durability of the technology under "real-world" experimental conditions. It appears that under controlled conditions, the panels could survive a "cycle" of a million vehicles. This amounts to about 20 years of normal traffic, provided that the roads themselves do not move.

Wattway explained that given that the solar-paneled road is still in an experimental phase, getting a trial site of this scale is a real opportunity for the experiment. It seems this site has allowed them to improve the technology behind their photovoltaic panel installation process as well as their manufacturing methods.

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