France set to pave over 600 miles of roadways with solar panels

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Last week the French Minister of Ecology and Energy announced that France would cover over 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) of their roads with photovoltaic solar cells.

France set to pave over 600 miles of roadways with solar panels

Installing the solar-panel surface over the 621 miles of existing roads is expected to take five years. The surface is 7 mm thick, or about a quarter inch, and has photovoltaic cells arranged like tiles in a polycrystalline silicon layer that is applied directly to the road. The panels should be strong enough to support fully-loaded trucks and provide the same amount of traction as asphalt. Testing on the solar-panel road surface is expected to begin in the spring.
This is what the material being laid on the roads looks like.

The government’s aspirations for the electricity output are high.

“The maximum effect of the program, if successful, could be to furnish 5 million people with electricity, or about 8 percent of the French population,” Ségolène Royal, France’s minister of ecology and energy, said according to Global Construction Review.

France’s Agency of Environment and Energy Management said that 4 meters (14 feet) of solarized road would be enough to supply the electrical needs of one household, excluding heat. One kilometer (0.62 miles) will supply enough electricity for 5,000 residents.
In order to protect the fragile photovoltaic cells, they have created a multilayer substrate which is supposed to be able to “withstand truck traffic.” There is debate that trying to solarize pathways (for cars or bikes or people) is not particularly economic efficient. To this I say, I do not know the answer to that. For that discussion go into the comment thread.

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