France has become the first country to open a solar road, with their Minister of Environment, Ségolène Royal officially inaugurating the one-kilometer patch bearing 2,880 solar panels in Tourouvre-au-Perche. Built with the help of construction company Colas‘ Wattway technology, it is a significant step towards furthering the clean energy experiment. If it performs according to plan, the 1 km strip will produce enough electricity to power a 3,400-person village.
The project has cost France 5 million Euros, around $5.2 million in construction. A major chunk of the cost came from the special resin used to cover five layers of silicon, making sure that the solar panels are resilient against damage. Wattway expects the panel road to produce around 280-megawatt hours of power annually.
Numbers for daily production are not as clear though due to the variable weather conditions, but the company estimates an average of around 767 kilowatt-hours (kWh) each day, with the output reaching even 1,500 kWh per day during the summertime.
The first two years of operations will be used to test the concept and judge its performance by lifespan and output. Wattway Director Jean-Charles Broizat talked about this:
“We are still on an experimental phase. Building a trial site of this scale is a real opportunity for our innovation. This trial site has enabled us to improve our photovoltaic panel installing process as well as their manufacturing, in order to keep on optimizing our innovation.”
The project marks the start of another phase in the world of renewable technologies, but it seems as though not everyone is convinced about this particular venture. Network for Energetic Transition vice president Marc Jedliczka is one of those apprehensive people:
“It’s without doubt a technical advance, but in order to develop renewables there are other priorities than a gadget of which we are more certain that it’s very expensive than the fact it works.”
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