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The World's First Solar Panel-Covered Road Is in a Small French Village

Solar panels are not the most effective way of producing energy, but they do use a renewable source and, once installed, they require minimum to no maintenance.
Solar road in French village 9 photos
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They do have the drawback of not working during the night or having lower productivity on overcast days, which means they need to be backed by another source as well as use energy storage devices. Still, Tesla seems to believe they are cheap enough to make that they can prove a viable solution in the long term.

But the most important advantage is that they can be installed over existing structures, meaning they don't need any kind of new infrastructure or take up extra space. For years, solar panels have been placed on rooftops, the tilted surface helping ensure that they sit at the perfect angle to take in as much as possible of the sun's rays.

Covering the surfaces of roads, however, would make even more sense. The world has billions of miles of ribbons of tarmac that serve no other purpose than to increase the speed and safety of the vehicles that move over it.

If that surface could be covered in solar panels, its functionality would instantly be doubled. However, that does pose some problems, one of which being finding a material that lets light through, but is also as grippy and as durable as the asphalt.

It would seem a small French village in Normandy called Tourouvre-au-Perche has found the solution. The little settlement has just inaugurated a road strip of one kilometer (0.6 miles) that's covered in solar panels for a total surface of 2,800 square meters (30,139 square feet).

The French ecology minister, Ségolène Royal (the same one who proposed a decommissioned nuclear facility to Elon Musk as a site for a future Tesla factory in Europe), was present at the event to confirm the support this project has had from the state. The total cost of approximately $5.2 million was publicly funded and was executed by the construction company Colas Group.

The project has its detractors, but most of them are only questioning the cost versus energy production ratio. But since the best way to test that is to build a prototype, that's exactly what this one-kilometer long road is. The program will be reassessed after two years, and conclusions will be drawn.

Others are more optimistical, though. According to The Guardian, the construction firm claims to have around 100 other solar road projects, only half of which are in France. Expect the title of the only solar road in the world to be a very short-lived one, then.


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