World’s first solar panel road opens in France

World’s first solar panel road opens in France

France unveils world’s first solar panel road in Normandy village

The village of Tourouvre-au-Perche in Normandy, France, changed the trend of solar paneling from the roof to the street by inaugurating the world’s first solar panel road.

French State minister Ecology Ségolène Royal inaugurated 1km or 0.6-mile road in the small village of Normandy. Road is covered with solar panels around 2,800sq m to generate renewable electricity.

The installed solar panels have been protected with a cover of silicon fine sheet to help withstand the 2,000 motorists which use the road, while ensuring a smooth hold between road surface and vehicles.

If this trial showed success, Royal aimed to expand the technology and will install solar panels in one out of every 1,000 KM (621 miles) of road across the country.  Currently, France has a total of 1 million KM (621,000 miles) of roads.

According to news reports, the experts will check out the Wattway technology if they can provide enough energy to power street lighting in the town of 3,400 residents over the next two years.

Wattway CEO Jean Charles Broizat commented, ‘‘this project is an important step in the development of the Watt way solar road and we will keep on experimenting and testing.  Building an application site of this magnitude is a real opportunity for our innovation. The application site has enabled us to improve our process of installing photovoltaic panels as well as their manufacture, in order to optimize our solution as best as possible”

Earlier, Netherland opened solar panels road in 2014 but that was just a bicycle track, French government extended technology to regular road. The panel road implementation comes costly, according to reports some experts questioning the project’s worth, stretch of road cost 5 million Euros (US$5.2 million) to complete. However, the road’s manufacturer is hoping to reduce the cost of production of the panels.

Vice President of Network for Energetic Transition (CLER) Marc Jedliczka told to the media, “Without any  doubt, it’s a technical advancement, 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.”

Usefulness aside, the main problem with constructing solar roads is their crippling cost. The 1km road in Normandy cost €5 million (£4.3m) to build. And that’s for a single lane of a two-lane highway.

Rooftop panels are much cheaper and more effective at this stage, costing 13 times less than Wattway cells per kilowatt-peak, which brought critics like the vice-president of the French Network for Energetic Transition, Marc Jedliczka, to dub the experiment more like an engineering feat, and a “gadget” than a sustainable way to produce energy.

World's first 'solar panel road' opens in France

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