Around the globe | Solar-cell roads get green light
French roads will be covered with 1,000km of solar panels over the next five years – with each kilometre giving enough power to light a village of 1,000 inhabitants.
Ecology minister Ségolène Royal approved the plan, which uses new technology to tile roads with panels made from photovoltaic solar cells covered with an ultra-resistant resin.
However, she also announced that taxes would rise on oil and gas to fund it, raising between €200million and €300million for transport infrastructure.
The Wattway project by French firm COLAS is the first of its kind in the world.
It will be tested this spring on roads across France and an invitation to tender has been announced.
COLAS began researching the technology in 2005, with the aim of using the transport network to produce electricity in an eco-friendly way.
Its head of science and technology, Jean-Luc Gauthier, said: “The road spends 90% of its time exposed to the sky and radiance [from the sun], making it an ideal surface for developing energy appliances.”
A 40sq cm panel of solar cells is enough to switch on 100 small lights, while 1km of road can give lighting to a village of 5,000 inhabitants.
Last year issues were raised around protecting fragile solar cells from heavy vehicles and providing a surface that is not slippery and therefore dangerous to motorists. However, since then COLAS says it has designed the technology to “adapt itself to all types of routes” and “support traffic of all kinds of vehicles, including heavy loads”.