Solar-Panel Roads to be Built on 4 Continents

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 - 09:32

After nearly five years of research and laboratory tests, European scientists have created electric avenues that can transmit the sun’s energy onto power grids.

Bouygues S.A., an industrial group headquartered in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, France, designed rugged solar panels, capable of withstanding the weight of an 18-wheeler truck that they are now building into road surfaces and plan to commercialize the technology in early 2018, Bloomberg reports.

“We wanted to find a second life for a road,” said Philippe Harelle, the chief technology officer at Colas SA’s Wattway unit, owned by the French engineering group Bouygues. “Solar farms use land that could otherwise be for agriculture, while the roads are free.”

To resist the weight of traffic, Wattway layers several types of plastics to create a clear and durable casing. The solar panel underneath is an ordinary model, similar to panels on rooftops. The electrical wiring is embedded in the road and the contraption is topped by an anti-slip surface made from crushed glass.

The company began construction on a kilometer-sized testing site last month in the French village of Tourouvre in Normandy. The 2,800 square meters of solar panels are expected to generate 280 kilowatts at peak, with the installation generating enough to power all the public lighting in a town of 5,000 for a year.

The next two sites will be in Calgary in Canada and in the U.S. state of Georgia. Wattway also plans to build them in Africa, Japan and throughout the European Union. “We need to test for all kinds of different traffic and climate conditions,” Harelle said. “I want to find the limits of it. We think that maybe it will not be able to withstand a snow plow.”

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