France to build 1000 kilometres of solar roads. But not everybody thinks this is a good idea

A thousand kilometres of roads will be paved with solar panels that will produce energy for millions of French people. But costs could be prohibitive.

The declaration came a few days ago and it was Ségolène Royal herself, the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, to state it: the government plans to pave 1000 kilometres of roads with photovoltaic panels in the next five years to provide millions of French people with energy.

solar roads
The solar panels could be used to pave cycling lanes as well. © Joachim Bertrand

According to the official website of Colas, the firm that will produce the panels, 1 km of solar road will be able to guarantee public lightening in a town of 5,000 residents, while once completed, the project will meet the energy demand of 8% of all France inhabitants.

Solar roads will produce renewable energy with Wattway

The company aims to apply thin panels of polycrystalline silicon – approximately 7 millimeters thick – to the existing road surface. The solar roadway, or rather the Wattway, will resist to heavy vehicles and maintain traction, even in case of rain. The company that developed this panel system in about five years and tested it in two French towns, presented it last October. The project reminisces the first solar road built in the Netherlands last year, Solaroad, which generated 3,000 kWh of energy in just three months.

A useless project?

Not everyone approves projects like this. According to Craig Morris, author of the book “German Energy Transition”, this is a crackpot idea,
Indeed, considering the example of the Dutch prototype, for 70 metres of cycling lane the government spent more than 3 million euros (almost 43 thousand euros per square metre, compared to 30 euros for a normal bike lane, according to Fiab) and produced power exclusively for 3 houses. A very expensive cost, not to mention maintenance costs, for a project whose inventor said it was “useless”.

According to Minister Royal, the funds required to implement French infrastructures (including solar roads), could be provided thanks to an increase in excise taxes on fuels, which will give the State’s coffers revenues for about 300 million euros, that are enough to support the project.

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