France is joining the Netherlands and Korea in the solar road club. The French government plans 620 miles of energy-generating pavement, which will be able to provide power for up to 8% of the country’s population.
Construction will take place over the next five years, using Wattway panels from Colas. These quarter-inch thick panels are glued straight onto the roadway, and act much like regular road—they’re strong enough for trucks, and drivers won’t easily skid when they brake while driving on them. The panels, says the manufacturer, require about 215-square-feet of surface area to generate enough electricity to power a home. That means about 0.6 miles of paved road should be enough to supply a town of 5,000 people.
Roads seem to be the perfect spot for solar power. Roads already ugly, so it’s hard to make them look worse; they’re usually not covered, so they get plenty of light; and roads are the very definition of infrastructure, so there’s no problem hooking them up to the electric grid. Provided the panels can hold up to heavy traffic, it should be an interesting experiment.