A new exciting alternative to provide energy made within the city. France will build a photovoltaic road surface over the next five years as announced during a press conference by the minister of ecology and energy, Ségolène Royal.
— Ségolène Royal (@RoyalSegolene) 31. Januar 2016
Such a roadway is not a novelty. Pioneers were the Netherlands with their 70 metres stretch called SolarRoad. Solar Roadways in the US collected more than US$2,2 million with a crowdfunding campaign in 2014. Also South Korea inaugurated a bike lane covered by photovoltaic panels protecting commuters from the sun. But France outshines them with a road length of 1,000 kilometres (626 miles). And it will be the first photovoltaic road system installed on public roads.
As planned, the photovoltaic road will power 8 % of the french energy needs
After two years intensive research between Colas, a road construction company, and the French National Solar Energy Institute (INES) the panels were ready in 2015 to be launched on the market. The panels contain 15 cm wide cells. The 7 mm thin film of polycrystalline silicon is rainproof and withstands cars, bikes, and trucks owing to multiple layers composed of a resin substrate.
In a press kitt, Wattway states numerous applications. For example, the electricity of traffic lights at an intersection can be provided by 15 m² of Wattway panels. Reportedly, 20 m² with 1,000 sun-hours/year are able to power an average French household. And 100 m² of Wattway panels allegedly provide enough power to travel 100,000 km (INES) with an electric car. The costs are estimated at 6 EUR/Watt-peak. According to Wattway, the panels have a 15 percent yield. Conventional photovoltaic panels yield of 18-19 percent.
This innovative solar panels can provide renewable energy exactly where it is needed, next to the consumer. In cities is the highest demand and it is constantly increasing. But still an interesting question arises. What is the length of the energy amortisation period of an installed and commissioned photovoltaic road surface? Let us hope that there is not too much traffic jam blocking the sunlight.