At the beginning of 2016, the French government announced the decision to pave 1,000 km of road with solar panels. Even though the project would take five years to its completion, the initiative will be the first of its kind in the whole world. The solar road seems like a view from a Sci-Fi book, and it will be used to generate clean energy.
The 1,000 km of solar road is far from its end. However, the first kilometer was inaugurated this Thursday by Segolene Royal, the Environment Minister. The project starts in Normandy, more precisely in the village of Tourouvre.
The one-kilometer prototype is called Wattway and is coated with 2,800 square meters of solar panels. The assets are covered in resin so that they are resistant to high impact. The solar panels were already connected to the local power grid and are up and running. Authorities expect the innovative project to produce enough energy to sustain the local street lighting.
The first solar road received more than $5 million state subsidy. However, the expenses are normal given the large efforts put into this project. First of all, it took developers six years to find the perfect materials to build such a road. They needed functional solar panels that can withstand massive weights. The Tourouvre village is not stranger from trucks that transport massive loads of goods. The solar road had to be strong enough to last for a long period of time.
At the moment, the energy Wattway produces is tenfold more expensive than the energy produced by the usual rooftop panels. This situation triggered a lot of criticism regarding the large investment in this solar road. One such kilowatt costs $17.73, while a rooftop installation doesn’t require more than $2.
However, the reason behind this high price seems to be the singularity of such a project. The moment the country develops more such solar roads, the costs will decrease. Segolene Royal declared that they need four more years to come up with a serious network of such groundbreaking highways. The next roads will start in western Brittany and southern Marseille. The engineering firm that made the solar road a reality is Colas. The organization stated that France could become energy independent entirely if there are 250,000 kilometers of roads paved with solar panels.
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