Ségolène Royal, France’s minister for ecology and energy, said the government plans to pave 1,000 km of roads with photovoltaic panels over the next five years to power millions of people.
The minister told a conference of the transport authorities last week that the calls for tenders for the “Positive Energy” initiative had already been published and that tests on the panels would start in spring.
According to the French Agency for Environment and Energy Management, 4 meters of solarized road is enough to meet a household’s electricity needs in addition to heating, and one kilometer will illuminate a settlement with 5,000 inhabitants.
The maximum impact of the program, if successful, could be to provide electricity to 5 million people, or around 8% of the French population.
During the solarization of the roads in France, 7 mm thick strips are glued to the road surface. The basic technology for this was already developed by the Bouygues subsidiary Colas.
The company’s Wattway panels (pictured above), which took five years to develop, were unveiled in October.
Ségolène Royal, France’s Minister for Ecology and Energy, IN 2009 (Mikani / Wikimedia Commons)
Wattway cells collect solar energy using a thin film of polycrystalline silicon, but they are resistant to the passage of trucks and provide sufficient traction to prevent skidding.
Ms Royal has suggested paying for improvements in French transport infrastructure by increasing taxes on petrol, which is “natural” given the falling oil costs.
She estimates this could add anywhere between 200 and 300 million euros ($ 220-440 million) to the cost of improvements such as solarization of roads.
A number of countries are striving to supply roads with energy. Last year a Dutch consortium built a 100 m power generation road in the Dutch town of Krommenie, and in the USA a couple are pursuing the idea after a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Top photo: A test track with Colas’ Wattway. The photovoltaic surface can support the weight of six-axle trucks (Colas).