It’s time to forget about solar roofs. Because the world’s very first solar road is here, constructed in the small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche in Normandy, France. The 1 kilometer road was opened yesterday by The Minister of Ecology Ségolène Royal and could potentially generate enough electricity to power the street lights. Normandy is not known for its surfeit of sunshine: Caen, the region’s political capital, enjoys just 44 days of strong sunshine a year compared with 170 in Marseilles
The total cost taken to construct the solar panel road was roundabout $5.2 million price and took 30,000 square feet of solar panels. The panels have been covered in a silicon-based resin that allows them to withstand the weight of passing big rigs. Royal even has expressed that he wants to see solar panels installed across 1,000 kilometers of French highway. The road will be used by about 2,000 motorists, which include almost all types of traffic, heavy and light, day during a two-year test period to establish if or not it can generate enough energy to provide electric power to street lights in the village of 3,400 residents.
There are several issues that pop up, however. For one, flat solar panels are less effective as compared to the angled panels that are commonly installed on roofs, and they’re also massively more expensive than traditional panels. Colas is the name of the company that has installed the road and hopes to reduce the cost of the panels going forward and it has around 100 solar panel road projects in progress around the world. Normandy’s Wattway required a staggering amount of $5.2 million to build, which means that each kilowatt peak it produces costs $17.74 compared to the $1.36 per kilowatt cost of a conventional solar roof. Experts recon this might prove quite inefficient, but that’s what the test is about.
Solar Roadway is another company that is looking towards building roads with solar panels, and it installed a small number of panels at the Route 66 Welcome Center in Conway, Missouri during the early part of this year. Still, they’re facing the same heavy seemingly insurmountable cost problems as Colas and the French.
Maybe those solar roofs from Tesla are the better way to go after all.
We’re in a new solar experimental phase right now, as governments assess way to incorporate practical solar energy with existing infrastructure, and without causing a big environmental impact. And that’s great, because it means that governments, not only the French but others as well, are finally taking this seriously.
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