Solar roadways—roads that incorporate embedded photovoltaic cells—have piqued interest for several years. A few examples are finally being rolled out, though their practical applications are still being evaluated.
On December 20, global transport infrastructure group Colas completed installing a solar panel paving system it calls “Wattway” (Figure 5) over 50 square meters (m2) at the Georgia Visitor Information Center in West Point, Ga. Two days later, it completed a 1-kilometer stretch running through the small town of Tourouvre-au-Perche in France’s Normandy region.
The bigger project in France covers about 2,800 m2 and is connected to the Enedis electricity distribution network. The €5 million project was financed by the French Ministry of the Environment, which said the road will allow for the evaluation of construction techniques for solar roads at a large scale and of the technology’s durability and energy efficiency. While more details will emerge during its two-year test period, the roadway is expected to produce 280 MWh annually.
“The daily production will fluctuate according to weather and seasons,” Colas noted. “On average, the estimated electrical output will reach 767 kWh per day, with peaks up to 1,500 kWh per day in summer.” An information panel installed near the road will show immediate production as well as total production of power since the installation.
In 2014, a Dutch research institute installed a 70-m-long bike path connecting Amsterdam suburbs of Krommenie and Wormerveer at a hefty cost of €3 million. The SolaRoad project, which comprises rows of crystalline silicon solar cells encased within concrete and tempered glass, has reportedly generated just 3,000 kWh.
—Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)