The World’s First Solar Road Opens in Normandy, France

The solar panels of Tourouvre-at-Perche in Normandy, France have taken up a rather revolutionary shift from the roofs to the streets, as the village opened world’s first solar panel road.

France’s ecology minister, Ségolène Royal opened the 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) route on Thursday, which is covered by 2,800 square metres of electricity-generating panels. The construction of this spectacle was done with the collaboration of Wattway, a world renowned construction company.

Photograph: Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

According to The GuardianWattway claims that the 5 million Euros (US$5.2 million) installation is capable of providing enough energy to power street lights of the 3,400 strong village for the next two years.

The major chunk of the hefty price tag of the panels comes from the special protective resin comprising of fine sheets of silicon, which helps against wear from the 2,000 motorists who will be using the road daily. The resin also ensures that there is good grip between tires and the roadway.

In case this experiment is successful, French Government plans to extend the installations in one out of every 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of road of the country. With France having a total of 1 million kilometers (621,000 miles) of the road network, this would be a huge step towards making this innovation in renewable technology a reality. But before that happens, there are some roadblocks challenging its success.

Photograph: Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

For instance, the panels laid on flat surfaces produce less power than those installed on sloping areas such as roofs. Also, the threat of bad weather means the panels can never be used as the sole source of power.

And the price tag of the project itself has made people like Marc Jedliczka, vice-president of Network for Energetic Transition (CLER) more skeptical than hopeful. He spoke to Le Monde.

“It’s without doubt a technical advance, but in order to develop renewables there are other priorities than a gadget of which we are more certain that it’s very expensive than the fact it works.”

Photograph: Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

Similarly, Jean-Louis Bal, president of renewable energy union SER, talked about the innovation:

“We have to look at the cost, the production [of electricity] and its lifespan. For now I don’t have the answers.”

What are your thoughts on the project? Do you think it is too expensive to be scaled up?

Comment below!

 

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