15 Feb Wattway – World’s First Solar Road – In France
French officials have opened the world’s first solar road in the region of Normandy, unveiling a 1-kilometre-long (0.6-mile-long) route covered in 2,880 photovoltaic panels.
The trial roadway, called Wattway, passes through the small town of Tourouvre-au-Perche.Wattaway believes a one -kilometer stretch of road can provide electricity to power public lightning in a city of 5000 inhabitants. This road is expected to be used by approximately 2,000 motorists daily during a two-year test period, to see just how much electricity it can generate. The Wattway is projected to produce 280 megawatt hours (MWh) of energy annually, with an estimated electrical output of 767 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day.
Wattway is a patented French innovation that is the fruit of 5 years of research undertaken by Colas, world leader in transport infrastructure, and the INES (French National Institute for Solar Energy). By combining road construction and photovoltaic techniques, Wattway pavement provides clean, renewable energy in the form of electricity, while allowing for all types of traffic.
Wattway is composed of cells inserted in superposed layers that ensure resistance and tire grip. The composite material is just a few millimeters thick, making it possible to adapt to thermal dilation in the pavement, as well as vehicle loads, a guarantee of durability and safety. The installation is also very easy. No need to rip out the existing structure, Wattway can be applied directly on the current pavement, without any need for civil engineering work.
This good initative also faces critics. Indeed, the cost of building the Wattway at €5 million (about US$5.2 million) doesn’t add up. Critics point out that the energy produced by the solar road costs 13 times as much as building rooftop panels.
Colas wants to get the cost of producing the panels down to make it competitive, which would fit France’s goal of installing 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) of solar-panelled roads in the next four years or so.
Whether that’s going to happen or not will depend on how well this two-year trial goes, and if the costs do come down, then it’s definitely something worth aiming for: 1,000 kilometres of solar roads would provide electricity to around 5 million people – about 8 percent of France’s population.
Sources: http://www.sciencealert.com/the-world-s-first-solar-road-has-opened-in-france and http://www.wattwaybycolas.com/en/