If you happen to be taking a drive in the northern part of France, you might notice something a little different about the road. In the village of Tourouvre-au-Perche in Normandy, the first solar power road covers over 30,000 square feet.
The new solar power road, named Wattway, was built by the French engineering firm Colas, who is also working on nearly a hundred more solar projects, like this one, around the world. The one 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) stretch of solar panel road was put in place to power the street lights.
The project cost €5 million ($5.2 million) and is part of an even larger plan to create 1,000 kilometers of photovoltaic road. France’s minister of energy and ecology says that if the five-year plan is a success, the solar roads will generate enough energy to provide almost five million citizens with electricity.
There are, however, a few things standing in the way of making this project the success it has the potential to be. The cost is of course number one, with the effectiveness of the solar roads being the second. Unlike solar panels on houses or buildings which are angled properly for effectiveness, these road panels lay flat which could affect the amount of sun gathered daily. Colas has also said that the panels are strengthened with silicon to lengthen their durability, but the amount of traffic and types of vehicles that come across these roads also pose the question of how long these solar roads will last.
In 2014 the Netherlands created a bike path that stretched 70 meters which was successful at powering the homes with electricity. However, harsh climate issues resulted in parts of the panels breaking off, but engineers have since claimed to have resolved that problem.
Ultimately the lasting issue seems to be cost. How many millions will it take to pave the streets with solar panels?