The French National Institute for Solar Energy (INES) in collaboration with Colas, a transport infrastructure company, is planning to cover about 621 miles (1000 km) of French roads with solar panels. The project was commissioned by France’s Agency of Environment and Energy Management and it is estimated to be completed within the next five years. The project is called the Wattway system and looks very promising.
One of the best things about this system is that it is not intended to replace the road and therefore does not require removing existing road surfaces. The solar panels are designed to be glued on top of the pavement. The system itself is only 0,28 inches (7 mm) thick, and consists of several layers of materials, which makes it highly resistant, while the surface offers good grip for car tires.
Colas claims that the materials used to make the Wattway system panels are can easily withstand regular traffic, which includes heavy trucks. As for the energy harvesting potential, just 215 square feet (20 sq m) of Wattway solar panels are able to provide sufficient power to satisfy the needs of an average French household, according to the company. Put a different way, a little more than half a mile (1 km) of the Wattway roadway will provide enough electricity to power all public lighting in a city with a population of 5,000.
The Wattway road is part of France’s “Positive Energy” initiative and it has already been approved. In spring, they will begin more rigorous testing of the panels. They have not yet revealed where they plan to install the Wattway system, nor how much it will cost. It will be very interesting to follow the progression of this project, and I, for one, think that more countries should consider similar solutions in combating the energy crisis.