France To Build 600 Miles Of Solar Energy Highways!

Solar roadways being laid. Credit: Colas, France.
Solar roadways being laid. Credit: Colas, France.

France is to install solar cells on 621 miles of its roads, hoping to generate enough renewable energy for five million citizens.

The ‘Positive Energy Intiative’, outlined in the Global Construction Review, was recently announced by Ségolène Royal, the French Minister of Ecology and Energy. She plans on financing the project by raising taxes on gasoline, something she described as “natural,” given its falling prices. She estimates that this could contribute between 200- 300m euros ($220-440m) to the cost of solar-powered roads.

French infrastructure company Colas will be responsible for the project, which will use photovoltaic cells, or ‘wattway panels’ to collect solar energy, using a thin film of polycrystalline silicon. The panels took five years to develop, can be used on any road, and are easily installed (7mm-thick photovoltaic strips are glued to the surface of the carriageway). They are slip-free, hard-wearing, and they allow for the passage of multiple vehicles and heavy loads. Funding has already been agreed, and testing will begin in spring.

According to France’s Agency of Environment and Energy Management, four miles of solar road is enough to supply one household’s electricity needs (except heating), and 1km will light a town with 5,000 inhabitants. This means the program- which will cover 1000km, or 621 miles of highway- could provide clean electricity to approximately 8% of the French population.

France is becoming a world leader in green initiatives, with laws prohibiting supermarkets from throwing out good food, a ban on Monsanto herbicides, and legislation obliging citizens to have solar panels or roof gardens on all new-built homes.

As we reported back in 2014, solar road panels can be installed on roads, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, bike paths, playgrounds… literally any surface under the sun! A nationwide system could produce more renewable energy than a country uses as a whole. Solar roads are already a reality in the Netherlands, while a couple from Idaho hit the headlines in 2014 when they installed solar cells in their drive. Meanwhile, India has unveiled the world’s first solar airport, while China is building a massive solar project in the Gobi desert.

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