Road paved with solar panels powers French town

The world’s first “solar highway”, a road paved with solar panels was inaugurated in yesterday.

The road will provide enough energy to power the street lights of the small Normandy town of Tourouvre, reports

France’s Environment Minister, Segolene Royal walks on a solar panel road at its inauguration in Tourouvre, on December 22

The half-mile Wattway covered with 30,000 square feet of resin-coated solar panels was connected to the local power grid by Environment Minister Segolene Royal.

The minister announced a four-year “plan for the national deployment of solar highways” with initial projects in western Brittany and southern Marseille.

An average of 2,000 cars use the road in Tourouvre each day, testing the resistance of the panels for the project carried out by French civil engineering firm Colas.

The idea, which is also under test in the US, Germany, and the Netherlands, is that roadways are occupied by cars only around 20% of the time, providing vast expanses of surface to soak up the sun’s rays.

Colas says that in theory France could become energy independent by paving only a quarter of its million kilometres of roads with solar panels.

Testing will show whether the panels can withstand wear and tear. Solar panels installed on a fifty yard stretch of a cycling lane north of Amsterdam experienced some damage last winter but the problem has been resolved, the project’s company TNO said.

The Wattway project, which has a state subsidy of $5m, began with four pilot sites around France, in parking lots or in front of public buildings, on much smaller surfaces of between 50 and 100 square metres each.

Cost is a major issue but Colas hopes to make the road cost competitive by 2020.

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