When completed, the power-generating roadways would supply enough electricity for 5 million citizens, based on per capita energy use averages.
The initiative, backed by France’s minister of ecology and energy, Ségolène Royal, would be the most ambitious solar road project in history. But that's not deterring her enthusiasm. The project is moving forward.
And France is not the only country looking seriously at solar road paving. A Dutch project has been underway for about a year now. Researchers have found that they can generate about 70kWh of power per square metre per year, exceeding expectations.
The process of solarizing French roads, now being field tested, involves 7mm-thick panels that can be glued on top of existing roadways, rather than digging up and disrupting pavement. Royal has suggested that taxes on fuel would pay for most of the "solarizing" process.
The company developing the panels is Colas. Their description of the Wattway panels:
Wattway is a photovoltaic road surfacing concept, the first of its kind in the world. Wattway panels are comprised of photovoltaic cells embedded in a multilayer substrate. These cells collect solar energy via a very thin film of polycrystalline silicon that enables the production of electricity.
On the underside of the panels, there is a connection to a lateral module containing the electrical safety components. The panels can be used on any road around the world, and are able to bear all types of vehicle traffic, including trucks.
Wattway is able to provide power to street lights, signs, tramways, as well as housing, offices, etc. For example, 20 m² of Wattway can supply enough electricity to power a single home (not including heating). With a one kilometer long section of Wattway panels, it is possible to power the street lights for a town of 5,000 inhabitants (ADEME).
Read more about their Wattway panels HERE.