Developed by Wattway and deployed on the streets of Tourouvre-au-Perche, a 1,000-meter-long solar-paneled roadway in France is the first stretch of a 1,000-kilometer endeavor.
The technology along this initial pathway is designed to generate enough energy to light up the streets of a 3,400-person town, and it is just the first step in a five-year plan.
France ultimately aims to pave 1,000 kilometers of solar roads over the next half-decade, supplying renewable energy to 5 million people (close to 10% of the population).
The flat and smooth surfaces of existing streets are perfect places to serve a double function and harvest clean energy as long as the issue of durability is taken into account.
The solar brick-like sheets are covered in multiple layers of silicon resign designed to allow light to pass through while protecting the panels from damage. The panels are engineered to withstand the weight of six-axle trucks and to stick directly onto existing road surfaces.
The goal for this first phase is to produce 280 megwatt hours of power per year and to test the durability of the tech under real-world experimental conditions. Under controlled conditions, the panels survive a “cycle of one million vehicles, or 20 years of normal traffic a road, and the surface does not move.”
“We are still on an experimental phase,” says the company. “Building a trial site of this scale is a real opportunity for our innovation. This trial site has enabled us to improve our photovoltaic panel installing process as well as their manufacturing, in order to keep on optimizing our innovation.”