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article imageWorld's first solar roadway now powers Normandy village

By Karen Graham     Dec 22, 2016 in Technology
On Thursday, France inaugurated the world's first "solar highway." The one-kilometer (half-mile) long road through the small Normandy village of Tourouvre will generate enough energy to power the town's street lights.
While the U.S., Netherlands and France have been working on ways to pave roads with solar panels, the projects have had their skeptics. And building a solar road is very interesting. Take two minutes to watch the video accompanying this story to see how it is done.
The Netherlands opened the world's first solar-powered bike path in 2014. Then, in January 2016, France announced that within five years, the country planned to install 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of solar roads, capable of providing power to three million people, according to National Geographic News.
The first photovoltaic road surface in the world was built in France.  By combining the techniques o...
The first photovoltaic road surface in the world was built in France. By combining the techniques of road construction with those of photovoltaic production, Wattway supplies clean, renewable energy, under all types of vehicle traffic.
But on Thursday, the one-kilometer "wattway" covered with 2,800 square meters (30,000 square feet) of resin-coated solar panels was hooked up to the local power grid while French Environment Minister Segolene Royal looked on, reports CTV News.
The wattway extends from the southern exit of Route RD5 at Tourouvre to where it meets the N12 at le Gué-à-Pont. Each of the photovoltaic panels in the roadway has been constructed to withstand the punishment from regular road traffic and the road can be linked to electrical equipment and networks.
In a statement, Royal was quoted by Phys.Org as saying: "This new use of solar energy takes advantage of large swathes of road infrastructure already in use... to produce electricity without taking up new real estate
The "wattway" project is being carried out by the French civil engineering firm Colas, a subsidiary of construction giant Bouygues. The roadway is expected to see as many as 2,000 vehicles per day using it, and is expected to generate about 280 MWh of electricity each year, according to New Atlas.
Wattway is a patented French innovation that is the fruit of five years of research undertaken by Colas, a world leader in transport infrastructure, and the INES (French National Institute for Solar Energy). As a matter of fact, Colas said that France could become energy-independent by paving only a quarter of its million kilometers of roads with solar panels.
An information panel has been installed beside the roadway that will provide locals with updates on electrical production, as well as a running total of electrical production. The roadway will be tested for two years to see how it holds up to traffic conditions and how well it generates electricity. The electricity produced is fed into the network operated by Enedis.
More about solar roadway, wattway, Tourouvre France, street lights, photovoltaic panels
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