PARIS: French civil engineering firm Colas has launched the world's first "photovoltaic roads," capable of withstanding the weight of cars and bicycles and producing electricity by exposure to sunlight.
Known as "Wattway," the concept could revolutionize solar energy production. Colas says that covering just 2.5% of France's road and highway network would be enough to supply 10% of the country's energy needs, French business daily Les Echos reports.
The work is the result of five years of research with the French National Institute for Solar Energy and will be available on the market beginning in January.
Hervé Le Bouc, CEO of Colas, told theLes Echos that authorities will not need to replace already existing infrastructures, seeing as the procedure consists of a simple road surfacing. Panels composed of 15 centimeter-long photovoltaic cells are installed on roads or car parks and covered with a resin substrate that can withstand any type of circulation, even heavy trucks. They are also designed to be resistant to skidding.
The photovoltaic roads are designed to send the collected energy to the country's national electricity network ERDF or directly to homes. About 20 square meters of the equipment can provide sufficient energy for one household (not including heating); 15 square meters can supply the traffic lights of one intersection and one kilometer can provide light to a city of 5,000 residents. Wattway can also be used for public lighting, illuminated billposting or electric cars.
Colas first plans on equipping supermarket car parks or limited road sections with its panels,"to discover the product," Le Bouc says. "Within four years, once we reach our cruising speed, we'll be able to equip several kilometer-long sections."�