Wattway Photovoltaic Road Surface in Tourouvre-au-Perche

A Kilometer Long Solar Road Opens In France For A Two-year Trial

What you see here is the “world’s first photovoltaic road,” installed in a small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche in Normandy, France. Stretching a good kilometer (0.6 mile), this 2,800 square meter (30,139 square foot) electricity-generating solar road will be put through a two-year test to see if it is able to supply the electricity necessary to power the street lighting of Tourouvre-au-Perche. So, yeah, it is kind of in it test phase, though it is worthy to note that prior to this real-road test, similar panels was tested at four carparks in France. So, this would be the next phase of testing and a very costly one, costing a cool $5.2 million.

Wattway Photovoltaic Road Surface in Tourouvre-au-Perche
A closer look at the panels similar to those installed at Tourouvre-au-Perche.

While undoubtedly pricey, if renewable energy is what the future needs, we have to extract it however we can and from everywhere, including a road like this. Truth be told, solar roof (which is apparently more efficient), wind farm and the likes just aren’t enough to sustain the growing need of people without creating more unwanted emissions. 5 years in the making, this solar road, which is aptly called Wattway, is developed by infrastructure specialist Colas in collaboration with French National Institute for Solar Energy with the aim of producing clean, renewable energy without consuming additional real estate which would have otherwise been put to good use for farmland or simply, remaining as natural landscapes.

Wattway Photovoltaic Road Surface in Tourouvre-au-Perche
Installation of Wattway does not required repaving the entire road.

The panels, if you are wondering, are naturally not ordinary solar panels; they are covered in silicon-based resin to enable them to take the punishment of vehicles, including heavy goods vehicles, going over them. The idea is no doubt awesome, but whether it will be cost effective, remains to be seen. That said, perhaps this is why Normandy was chosen as, apparently, Caen isn’t quite known for sunshine which should provide a good ‘worst case scenario’ for the purpose of feasibility study. And why not? If it works for a sunshine lacking region, it should work anywhere else, right? Though Colas did express that it will work to reduce the cost of producing the solar panels.

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Featured image: Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA via The Guardian.

Additional images: Colas.

via The Verge