Wattway by Colas has opened the world’s first solar road in the Normandy region of France. The 1-kilometer (0.6-mile) road, which runs through Tourouvre-au-Perche, is an attempt to generate energy for the small town of 3,400 residents. With a price tag of $5.2 million, the road contains 30,000 square feet of silicon resin-covered panels to withstand the weight of larger vehicles. This could be a first huge step forward, as French Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal wants to see these panels cover 1,000 kilometers if this test road proves to be effective.
How It Works
The project is part of The French Energy Transition for Green Growth Law, adopted in August 2015, that allows for more ambitious projects to be attempted when it comes to energy resources. According to the official press release from Wattway, the test road is made up of 2,880 photovoltaic panels. These panels are used to gather energy from the sun, but in this case will also hold the weight of the vehicles that travel over them every day. The panels are flat on the ground and flush with each other, creating a road that is both visually appealing and also provides a smooth ride.
Over the two-year test period, Wattway expects around 2,000 drivers to use the test road daily. The energy produced will be submitted to Enedis, a French electricity provider that prides itself in being a major player in the country’s transition to cleaner energy options.
What is expected of the first solar road?
The expected annual results are around 280 MWh, while daily production results are expected to vary between 767 kWh and 1,500 kWh – all dependent on seasonal and weather changes in the area. An information panel, also generated by Wattway, is placed near the road to calculate real-time production, as well as total amount of energy produced since installation. The electricity generated by the road will be used to power the town’s street lights. This will create a visual result, as well as control the test to a specific area of the electric grid for both Colas and Enedis.
What’s Next for Solar Roads?
Roads consisting of Solar panels to generate power have been in the works for quite some time. In the United States, there is a small test area in Missouri being overseen by Solar Roadways, a company launched by an Idaho couple seeking new ways to integrate solar energy into everyday activity.
The “solar sidewalk”
The power generated by this “solar sidewalk” is used to light up the Route 66 Welcome Center at Conway. “Solar roadways can hopefully create new revenue streams,” Tom Blair, an engineer for Missouri’s Department of Transportation (MoDOT), said in a statement to the News Tribune earlier this year, “If their version of the future is realistic, roadways can begin paying for themselves.”
Many countries throughout the world are looking to solar energy as a viable supplement, if not a replacement, to their current energy resources. Solar roads like the Wattway project do not come cheap, but through crowdfunding and laws like The French Energy Transition being passed, we are beginning to see solar energy rise to the forefront in a new and exciting way. Could this be the beginning of a new energy revolution?