France opts for solar-cell roads

Some 800 miles road in France roads will be covered with solar panels over the next five years.

Ecology minister Ségolne Royal approved the plan, which uses new technology to tile roads with panels made from photovoltaic solar cells covered with an ultra-resistant resin.

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 started research of 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.”

Three quarters of a mile of  of road can lightt 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”.

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