The world’s first road paved with electricity generating solar panels was recently opened in France, in the Normandy village of Tourouvre-au-Perche. A kilometre-long section of existing road has been covered in specially toughened solar panels that can withstand the weight of regular traffic, including heavy goods vehicles (around 2,000 motorists a day use the road). A two-year test period will establish whether the road can generate enough electricity to power the street lighting in the village. The solar-panelled road, christened ‘Wattway’, was developed and built by Colas, which has plans for a further 100 Wattway projects, both in France and abroad.
Wattway could be a harbinger of more integrated and intelligent urban infrastructure. Colas claims that Wattway can be used to power street lights, traffic lights and nearby houses (4 linear metres produces the electricity needs of the average French household). It can also be used to charge stationary electric vehicles via induction, which could prove systemically useful if electric vehicle take-up surges. Future applications could potentially include the enabling of intelligent roads with real-time traffic management, and the charging of moving electric vehicles.
Segolene Royal, the French Ecology Minister, has said she would like to see solar panels installed on one in every 1,000km of French highway. As France has a total of 1 million km of roads, that would result in significant levels of installation. However, Wattway has also encountered some controversy, mainly on the grounds of cost. The road cost £4.2m to construct, financed by the state, and critics decry the project as too expensive. Marc Jedliczka, vice-president of Network for Energetic Transition (CLER), said, “It’s without doubt a technical advance, but in order to develop renewables there are other priorities than a gadget of which we are more certain that it’s very expensive than the fact it works.” Colas says it hopes to reduce the costs in future projects.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/22/solar-panel-road-tourouvre-au-perche-normandy https://www.indy100.com/article/france-solar-power-road-first-ever-alternative-energy-7517506 https://www.wattwaybycolas.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Wattway-DP-UK.pdf