Colas SA, a subsidiary of Bouygues SA, is building solar roads with panels that were designed to withstand an 18-wheeler truck. The company is constructing 100 outdoor sites to test the new panels, knwon as Wattway. If successful, the technology will be commercialized in 2018.
The test sites include French village of Tourouvre in Normandy, some streets in the US State of Georgia and Canada’s Calgary. The company also plans to place test sites in Japan, Africa and throughout the European Union, several news sources reported.
Around 2,800 m² of Wattway photovoltaic panels will be installed on a one-kilometer section in the French site. At their peak, the installed panels are expected to generate 280 kilowatts.
“Wattway is the world’s first ever photovoltaic road surfacing which harvests solar energy to produce electricity,” the company says in an official statement, highlighting that the panels can be directly placed on pavements and without the need of additional construction.
“The very thin panels are sturdy, skid-resistant and designed to last. A mere 20 m2 of Wattway can produce enough electricity to supply a single household (not including heating),” the company adds.
“We wanted to find a second life for a road,” said Philippe Harelle, the chief technology officer at Colas SA’s Wattway unit, told Bloomberg. “Solar farms use land that could otherwise be for agriculture, while the roads are free.”
“We need to test for all kinds of different traffic and climate conditions,” Harelle added, stating that the limits of the panels need to be understood. Harelle believed that the panels might not be able to withstand a snow plow. Other companies such as Solar RoadWays and Scania are also seeking to introduce solar panels to roads.