Driving On Sunshine?

In 2016, the French government announced it would build a 620-mile highway out of solar panels instead of asphalt. The claim was these panels would generate 790 kilowatts per day, enough to power five million homes. 

It didn’t work, of course.  In the first year, the road only generated half the expected solar power, with normal wear reducing the output even further.

And yet, the French were on to something. Today governments, researchers and companies are developing roads that double as solar-power generators in several countries around the world.

In Georgia, the transportation lab The Ray, together with the French company Wattaway, is testing photovoltaic roadways along an 18-mile stretch of Interstate 85. Solar Roadways in Idaho is using parking lots, driveways and sidewalks as its testbeds. Similar work is being done in the Netherlands and China.

There are still many obstacles to be overcome. Solar panels on roads are seldom at an optimal angle for efficient operation, won’t work on many city streets where large buildings block the sun, and road grime cuts efficiency significantly.

Yet the payoff is too great to ignore. We know our infrastructure needs a major upgrade and fossil fuels are contributing to climate change. Maybe this is a way to solve two problems at once?

For more information, see “How Solar Roads Could Make Transport Cleaner” by Andrew Hirschfeld (https://www.ozy.com/the-new-and-the-next/the-road-could-be-a-solar-charger-soon/246257/?). The photo came from that site.

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