We’re not talking about the latest science-fiction film or about the forecasts of some visionary: solar panels have already replaced tarmac in many countries.
This is still in the experimental phase of course, pros and cons are being weighed up but it is undoubtedly a great leap ahead in the matter of environmental sustainability .
The (very recent) story of the Solar Road
The pioneer of this type of initiative is Normandy with its 2016 WattWay project by Colas.
This is just a 1-km stretch of road covered with solar panels and designed to supply all the electricity required by the city centre of Tourouvre-au-Perche, numbering 3400 inhabitants.
But the big news comes from China where an amazing two-lane solar panel motorway with an emergency lane was inaugurated at the beginning of 2018.
The photovoltaic panels, that cover a 5,875 m2 surface, are sandwiched between two layers: an insulating layer is placed below while the road is topped by a protective, transparent layer that lets the sunlight through.
This motorway produces one million Kw/h of clean energy per year which, on average, could satisfy the daily requirements of about 800 families.
The advantages of roads with solar panels
Many benefits would derive from having a large number of roads with solar panels:
- Greater production of clean energy resulting in less pollution from fossil fuels
- The LED lights on these panels could be used to design horizontal road signs which would require no maintenance and could be easy to modify when necessary
- Solar energy could be used to power road lighting, improving safety levels
- The solar panels could be used to prevent ice from forming, making icy roads a thing of the past
So why haven’t we already replaced every inch of tarmac with solar panels?
The main reason regards the costs-benefits ratio, as analysed in a survey conducted by The HYPERLINK “https://theconversation.com/solar-panels-replaced-tarmac-on-a-road-here-are-the-results-103568″Conversation.
In fact, for the time being, installation and maintenance costs are much greater than the energy produced.
Moreover, the unfavourable angle at which these panels are installed does not allow this technology to be fully exploitated.
This is the situation for the time being, but the way has been paved for change…..for a better future.
Cover photo © greenMe