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Wattway’s Solar Road in France Offers Glimpse into the Future of Roads

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After two years of testing, the trial of a 1 kilometer solar road will finally make the 1000 km long solar roads around France be installed.

In Normandy, France, there is a village roadway powered by solar panels. France finally decided to implement 1,000 km (621 miles) long solar roadways using Wattway, which is still a controversial plan to put in action.

Although there is advanced research in improving the efficiency of solar panels and installing them on rooftops or vacant land, using solar power on roads will create change the way we use solar power. Before this idea, solar panels were installed according to the sun rays, tilted towards a direction. Now, the optimal locations will be replaced by continuous roads.

The Wattway, covers 1 kilometer in Tourouvre-au-Perche. The 1 kilometer road has 2,880 solar panels and 2000 drivers daily. The electricity generated from the solar road powers the street lighting of the village that has 3,400 residents.

It is estimated that the yearly production will be 280 MWh, and the daily electricity generation will be 767 kWh with a maximum peak of 1,500 kWh. The electricity generated will be fed to the Enedis, the French electric provider. Regarding the solar panels, the Wattway states:

“Each panel contains 15-cm wide polycrystalline silicon cells that transform solar energy into electricity. These extremely fragile photovoltaic cells are coated in a multilayer substrate composed of resins and polymers, translucent enough to allow sunlight to pass through, and resistant enough to withstand truck traffic. The surface that is in contact with vehicle tires is treated to ensure skid-resistance equivalent to conventional asphalt mixes.”

The Normandy project was installed on the existing road rather than building a new road bed. Thus, according to the Guardian, €5 million was spent on the road. Jean-Charles Broizat, Wattway Director said:

“We are still on an experimental phase. Building a trial site of this scale is a real opportunity for our innovation. This trial site has enabled us to improve our photovoltaic panels installing process as well as their manufacturing, in order to keep on optimizing our innovation.”

Yet, France is not the only country with a solar road test. The U.S also started its solar road testing with Wattway in West Point, Georgia. Through this project, the Georgia Visitor Information Center expects to generate 7,000 kWh each year in 50 square meters.

The main importance for the solar road is not the amount of electricity that it produces, it is that such an innovative project is being tested and improved by several countries. With these researches and trials, solar roads can be a new way to generate electricity from solar panels.

[via treehugger]

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