The huge success of the SolaRoad project in the Netherlands, where a bike path was covered with solar panels, was bound to trigger the interest of others. The difference now is that SolaRoad had to take the hit, receiving huge amount of criticism and skepticism, clearing the way for others to take the glory.
Following the Dutch footsteps is France, and wow, are they thinking big! Last week, the minister of ecology and energy, Ségolène Royal, announced the plans of the government to cover 1,000 km of city roads with PV panels over the next five years. If it all goes according to the projections, the electricity that will be produced by these roads should be sufficient to meet the needs of 5 million people.
The solar panels that will be used are called Wattway panels. These consist of 7mm thick PV cells, which use thin film of polycrystalline silicon, and are sturdy enough to handle heavy vehicles and prevent surface damage. The panels do not require any special knowledge or expertise to mount, in fact, they can simply be placed on top of the existing road. The company in charge of infrastructure is Colas.
Testing of the panels will begin in early spring. According to Royal, initial funding is already set aside. To further finance the project, however, Royal proposes an increase in fuel taxes, but apparently that is natural since the prices of oil have dropped recently. She states that this could bring an additional 300 million euros, which could easily go towards improvement and solarizing of road infrastructure.
For some skeptics this news might seem very far-fetched, but it is not. This is especially because it is not even unique anymore. Besides the SolaRoad project in the Netherlands, other similar endeavors have already succeeded across the globe. Another example is Solar Roadways in Idaho, with a funding contract with the US Department of Transportation.
Image (c) Colas