A stretch of road in rural France has been given a Elon Musk-esque makeover, with a portion of its path being paved with solar panels.
The 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) road runs through Tourouvre-au-Perche in Normandy, northern France, a small village with a population of just 3,400. The Wattway project involves paving the roadway with over 2,880 solar panel tiles, hoping to provide clean and green energy to the surrounding area.
On average, the road will pump out 767 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity every day, or as much as 1,500 kWh per day on a sunny summer’s day. That’s not a huge amount, since flat panels are considerably less efficient at harvesting energy from sunlight compared to angled roof-mounted panels. However, the road will generate enough electricity to power an average family home for a year. The project does not come cheap either, expecting to cost around €5 million ($5.2 million).
The path is being heralded as the world’s first solar powered road. A few smaller solar-powered paths have been opened in Europe, such as the solar-cycle path in Amsterdam, however, this is thought to be the first one that can carry road traffic.
The project is a two-year trial, which is being used to assess the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the road. Whether it will be rolled out elsewhere remains unknown considering its hefty price tag. Nevertheless, the company behind the project, Colas, is a large multinational with the money behind it and a strong history of innovating transport infrastructure.
"We are still experimenting with Wattway. Building an application site of this magnitude is a real opportunity for our innovation,” Jean-Charles Broizat, CEO of Wattway, said in a statement.
“This application site has enabled us to improve our process of installing photovoltaic panels as well as their manufacture, in order to optimize our solution as best as possible."