France Will Cover Hundreds of Miles of Its Roads with Solar Panels

You don’t have to be a genius to realize that if we covered enough surfaces with solar panels, we would solve the energy problem once and for all - presuming we’d also have large enough batteries to last us through the night.
Workers laying solar panels on the road 1 photo
Photo: Wattway
People are draping their roofs in them, some are covering fields and creating solar power farms while others are just fine with using grid electricity without bothering to wonder where it comes from. But for one household to be sustainable and meet all of its power requirements - which, by the way, are constantly growing, despite energy efficient bulbs and all that - solely from its own mini-solar station is still hard to achieve.

We need to think bigger, and apparently that’s exactly what France is doing. INES (the French National Institute for Solar Energy) together with Colas (a transport infrastructure company) and with the approval of France’s Agency of Environment and Energy Management are planning to pave hundreds of miles of the country’s roads with solar panels.

It’s not the first time such an idea has come up, but this project - called Wattway - sounds like a much more plausible idea. If what was previously proposed necessitated the removal of the current road surface and replacing it with glass panels, the French solution is a lot easier to install.

The panels are only seven millimeters thick (or about 0.35 inches) and are simply glued to the existing pavement. Think of the way you install tiles on a bathroom’s floor and you’re not very far away, only these tiles produce electrical current. Their simplicity is also reflected in the low production and maintenance cost (compared to other solutions).

The Wattway is built in layers to ensure it’s durable enough for regular traffic, and also offers the required grip for tires to ensure road safety. says that 20 square meters (215 square foot) of Wattway panels can produce enough power to cover the need of an average French household, while a one kilometer road would be enough to take care of the public lighting of a town with 5,000 inhabitants.

Wattway is about to begin its testing phase this spring, while the plan is to cover up to 1,000 kilometers of road (612 miles) over the next five years. It may not be the smart pavement we were hoping for - with integrated LEDs matrixes that can change road markings at any time and wireless charging on the fly - but at least it’s something that can be implemented with minimum effort and considerable results. That is if the testing phase proves successful.

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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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