It has been announced that France is to have solar photovoltaic panels installed on around 1,000 km of its road network over the next few years. France are not the first country to have solar panels laid on surfaces that people can be transported over as Holland has a bicycle path paved with solar panels.
It is hoped that in the next five years these solar panels will be laid on parts of France’s roads and that the renewable energy generated will be used to supply homes with electricity.
Research has been carried out for the last 5 years involving the French National Institute for Solar Energy (INES) and Colas that is involved in transport infrastructure. The solar panel road surface is called Wattway.
All sorts of vehicles will be able to travel on the road surface including lorries and it is interesting to note that it is estimated that a road surface is only used 10% of the time so it would appear that there is plenty of capacity for energy to be produced using this system. It is estimated that one home can be supplied with the electricity that it needs from 20 square metres of solar photovoltaic panels. Apparently, alternatively, enough public lighting could be provided in a town for the benefit of 5,000 residents from just one km of road that has had this solar paneled road surface installed. It is hoped that as many as 5 million people could benefit from the 1,000 km of roads that are going to have these panels fitted.
Interestingly, the solar panels can be installed directly onto the existing road surface so this will presumably mean that these panels can be installed at a cheaper cost than if the existing road surface had to be removed first before the new solar paneled road surface could be laid. Apparently, the system is very durable and suitable for the grip of the tyres.
No announcement has yet been made as to which roads in France will have these solar panels fitted to them. It will be interesting to hear if the UK decides to do something along the above lines.