France gets a step closer to solar roads | RenewEconomy

France gets a step closer to solar roads

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French energy minister Ségolène Royal has inaugurated a manufacturing plant that will produce the so-called “Wattway” paving, made of solar PV.

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PV Magazine

French energy minister Ségolène Royal has inaugurated a manufacturing plant that will produce the so-called “Wattway” paving, made of solar PV. One of its pilot projects will be a 1 kilometer solar road, built in the same region as where the plant is located.

franceOn 26 July French energy minister Ségolène Royal inaugurated a manufacturing unit for the Wattway photovoltaic panels in Tourouvre, Orne. Wattway is a French innovation and is the result of 5 years of research undertaken by Colas, a transport infrastructure company, and the French National Institute for Solar Energy (INES).

The joint patent for the product is based on crystalline silicon, and although it is very thin, Colas argues it is also “very sturdy, skid-resistant and designed to last,” with the durability to bear all types of vehicles, including trucks. Wattway panels can be applied directly to existing pavements, with the aim of generating green electricity while also allowing traffic to flow.

The new manufacturing facility is adjacent to Colas’ headquarters in the village of Tourouvre, in France’s north western department Orne. The new facility is expected to speed up the panel production time, as the Wattway panels had previously been manufactured at the INES laboratory.

Colas is already taking orders for panels ranging from 10 m2 to 50 m2, however, as of 2017, Wattway panels will be included in the Colas product line and the panel surface will increase.

One of the first applications of the Wattway panels will be a 1 kilometer road in the Onre region, the local council has announced.

France’s energy minister took the opportunity at the event to also announce the mobilization of €5 million in state funding to support the development of the Wattway photovoltaic panel. Royal herself is a great support of the innovative patent and has often spoken publicly of the variety of projects the Wattway can be applied to.

 A Wattway panel, said Colas, can last “at least 10 years depending on the traffic, which speeds up wear. If the section is not covered by heavy traffic – a stadium parking lot for example – then Wattway panels can last roughly 20 years.”

 Furthermore, “given the technical issues involved in the connection process, the panels need to be installed by an authorized technician,” added Colas, who also expressed that “within the next two to three years, it will be possible to install Wattway panels on private roads and driveways.”

Source: PV Magazine. Reproduced with permission.

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  1. Ab 4 years ago

    Private driveways and low use hard surfaces may make sense if the cost is low. But I can’t see this being practical on most roads. Road surfaces today may look simple, but they are very sophisticated and have taken thousands of years to develop; the camber and gravel to allow water run off and grip, the tar to give flexibility, many layers of stones beneath to support very heavy vehicles. And all very cheap materials. Solar panels better on roofs.

  2. Ken Fabian 4 years ago

    It may not be entirely rational but I’ve always liked the idea of solar roads, footpaths and other pavements. The parts that are rational are that these are areas often have good sun exposure, tend to go to and from places that need energy and are usually accompanied by nearby electricity transmission lines and infrastructure. The vehicles using roads are themselves major energy users as well and a transition to electric vehicles is looking increasingly achievable.

    What may not be rational is investing in this at large scale rather than concentrating on easier locations but at the scale of trials of high grip, toughened solar cells it isn’t outrageous so why not try it? Some places it probably isn’t the best option. Roofed over sections for car parks being PV fitted is being done and that may be preferred. I appreciate shaded parking in hot weather where it’s available. Likewise for awnings over walkways. But there is a lot of sun exposed road surface, even if the highest wear areas are deliberately avoided; ultimately the potential for automation of continuous laying – and even lifting up damaged and deteriorated sections for replacement – may become possible.

    Integration of solar into sun exposed surfaces is still lagging – we are yet to see much actual installation of integrated solar roof or wall sheets and tiles, with solar panels as a discreet add-on still dominating. I think the potential for integration will be one next generation Photovoltaics will be tackling and roads, despite the tough conditions, will not be ignored.

  3. Objectif Terre 4 years ago

    => French Solar Roadways Bullshit:

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