Over the next five years, France will install some 621 miles (1,000km) of solar roadway using Colas’ Wattway solar pavement.
Solar freakin’ roadways! No, this is not the crowdfunded solar road project that blew up the internet a few years ago, but is a collaboration between Colas, a transport infrastructure company, and INES (France’s National Institute for Solar Energy), and sanctioned by France’s Agency of Environment and Energy Management, which promises to bring solar power to hundreds of miles of roads in the country over the next five years.
One major difference between this solar freakin’ roadway and that other solar freakin’ roadway is that the new Wattway system doesn’t replace the road itself or require removal of road surfaces, but instead is designed to be glued onto the top of existing pavement. The Wattway system is also built in layers of materials “that ensure resistance and tire grip,” and is just 7 mm thick, which is radically different from that other design that uses thick glass panels (and which is also claimed to include LED lights and ‘smart’ technology, which increases the complexity and cost of the moose-friendly solar tiles).
According to Colas, the material is strong enough to stand up to regular traffic, even heavy trucks, and 20 m² of Wattway panels is said to provide enough electricity to power a single average home in France, with a 1-kilometer stretch of Wattway road able to “provide the electricity to power public lighting in a city of 5,000 inhabitants.”