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France launches a state-of-the-art solar road. Groundbreaking or just too expensive?

France launches a state-of-the-art solar road. Groundbreaking or just too expensive?

By Md. Taraq Junaid

On December 21, 2016, the world moved a step forward in creating a future with sustainable energy. We finally have the first solar road. The French Minister for Ecology, Ségolène Royal, inaugurated this one-kilometre long road in the small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche, Normandy, France.

It is capable of generating enough electricity to power all the street lights in the village. All of this after $5.2 million and 5 years’ worth of development by Colas, the company that manufactured the road.

A coating of silicon-based resin allows the solar panels spread across the road to withstand the impact of the passing vehicles

A coating of silicon-based resin allows the solar panels spread across the road to withstand the impact of the passing vehicles | Picture Courtesy: Designboom

The positives

A coating of silicon-based resin allows the solar panels spread across the road to withstand the impact of the passing vehicles. If the road performs as expected, Ms Royal plans to install these solar panels across 1,000 kilometres of French highways.

Furthermore, she pointed out that a positive side of this new technology would be the absence of any civil engineering work or additional space requirements. It uses the already operational, large swathes of road infrastructure to produce electricity by harnessing solar energy.

The negatives

Flat solar panels are less effective than the angled panels.

Unfortunately, this ground breaking technology faces numerous issues at present that might substantially affect its market value. For starters, flat solar panels are less effective than the angled panels that are installed on roofs. In addition, they are immensely expensive when compared to the traditional panels.

However, the Vice President of French Network for Energetic Transition, Marc Jedliczka, dubbed the innovation as an engineering feat. He termed the road a ‘gadget’ rather than a sustainable way to produce energy.

The road ahead

Despite all the criticism coming its way, the French government is optimistic about the future. On the same day that the Tourouvre Road was opened, Ms Royal announced that other trials would be conducted next year in the Marseille Fos Port and on a section of Brittany’s Route 164.

With as many as 100 upcoming projects to install solar roads around the world, the manufacturer hopes to reduce the costs and improve the efficiency of these panels in the near future.


Featured Image Credit: NBC News
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