France is working on a project to cover 1000 kilometers of roads with specially modified solar panels. Ségolène Royal, France’s minister of ecology and energy, says, “The maximum effect of the program, if successful, could be to furnish 5 million people with electricity, or about 8% of the French population.”
This is not some solar sidewalk we are talking about here, folks. This is a major step forward in the greening of the world’s electrical energy supply. According to France’s Agency of Environment and Energy Management, 4 meters of solarized road (about 14 feet) is enough to supply the electrical needs of one household, not counting heat. One kilometer (0.62 mile) will supply enough electricity for a community of 5,000 inhabitants.
The specialized solar panels were developed by Colas, which bills itself as the “World leader in the construction and maintenance of transport infrastructure.” It introduced its Wattway panels last October. They took 5 years to develop and consist of 7 millimeter thick strips glued to the road surface. The strips use a thin film of polycrystalline silicon to make electricity from sunlight. Colas says they have been tested extensively and can withstand the weight of a 6 axle truck. They are also said to be skid resistant.