China is now building a 1.2 mile stretch of solar highway. That means that the solar panels on the road will be powering the towns surrounding it. Engineers are hoping that soon it will be able to wirelessly power the electric cars driving on the road as well. The Jinan South Ring Expressway starts off in the eastern Chinese city of Jinan, home to 7 million people. It is known as a tech and transportation hub. It is also the home of Sinotruck, which is the country’s state owned heavy-duty truck manufacturer.
According to national media of China, the solar-powered leg of the expressway will be open by the end of December. It will be able to sustain medium-sized trucks. To build a photovoltaic highway, Chinese engineers are using three layers. The uppermost of these is the transparent concrete with a feel similar to asphalt. Under it is the solar panels, absorbing the sun’s rays while safely protected from natural elements. Below the solar panels is a strip of insulation that ensures that nature does not interfere from the bottom up.
Apart from acting as a power source, the road also provides an added benefit: the panel heat can transfer through the concrete, allowing them to automatically melt snow. Solar roads are still a rarity but they have been around since 2014. They fit in just perfectly with China’s aggressive pursuit of solar power in recent years, from farms to the largest solar park in the world.
Jinan is one of the most populated cities in China. It has poor air quality that has increased the city’s mortality rate by nearly six percent. A good target for China’s newfound environmentalism, the expressway that is not even the city’s first solar road. The Quilu Transportation Development Group, the same group building the expressways, also built a road in the city as a test run.
Solar road projects have previously been ridiculed for their high cost and low output. But these roads have generally focused on adding solar panels on top of current roads. The world of infrastructure will be watching hopefully that China can finally crack the solar road problem.