Worlds’ First Solar Panel Road Has Opened in France
A little village in Normandy, France, called Tourouvre-au-Perche, has recently installed solar panels on a 1 km long stretch of road in an effort to generate enough renewable green energy to power the street lamps. The road was opened on 21st of December this year by French Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal.
With the ever present doom and gloom of climate change hanging over our heads, the need for renewable sources of energy is becoming more urgent than ever. The consumption of fossil fuel by vehicles and industries, is one of the main contributor to global warming. As of 2014, approximately 78% of US global warming emissions were
approximately 78% of US global warming emissions were energy related emissions of carbon dioxide. Of this, approximately 42 percent was from oil and other liquids, 32 percent from coal, and 27 percent from natural gas.
Using Solar panels to power street lamps on roads or powering homes is not a new concept and has been around for a quite a few years but planting the panels directly on the road is unusual. The first time its been done was in Route 66 Welcome Center in Conway, Missouri earlier this year.
Although initially impressive, but we have to look at the bigger picture here. Solar panels on roads is a huge investment, the one in Normandy with its 30,000 square feet of solar panels has racked up a whopping $5.2 million in costs. Solar panels, in general, costs $7000 each to build, add to that there’s the huge installation and maintenance costs. The company that installed the panels in Normandy, Colas, hopes the electricity generation in the long run will recoup the costs, but that might take years.
Then there’s the question of durability. The solar panels in Normandy are covered in silicon-based resin that allows them to withstand the weight of big vehicles but is it strong enough to protect against road accidents? The cost of repairing the panels would be far more than fixing any ordinary asphalt road.
And the biggest issue of all for solar energy collection : Cloudy days. How will those panels provide electricity to the street lights if there is little to no sunlight for more than a week! Will the roads remain dark until then or will reserve batteries be used? None of the details have been revealed yet.
Since the concept is new, the panels is Normandy and Missouri are test drives for what might turn out to be a great idea for green energy production, albeit costly.