Normandy, France has officially opened the world’s first solar panel road, Wattway. It’s located in a small village and is expected to see the traffic of about 2,000 commuters a day. The projected output of 765 kWh/day is enough energy to power all of the street lighting in the village. Wattway is just the beginning of France’s push to install 1,000 kilometers of solar panel roads throughout the country in the next five years.
As with any new idea, the solar road does come with concerns. How will traffic effect the amount of light that hits the panels? How will heat play a role in the lifespan of the road? How much energy will solar roads actually produce and will it be enough to payback the energy used to make the panels? All of these questions and concerns were once asked with the production of solar panels themselves.
Five years ago, solar was almost nonexistent and the prices were astronomical. Today, solar energy prices are decreasing and even though it’s still a small player in the energy game, a player it is.
The same outcome could come out of solar roads as the idea expands. With the sun’s rays hitting roads for up to 90% of daylight hours, solar roads could be the next innovative push in ways of incorporating renewable energy sources.