France inaugurated the first solar road in the world. This is a joint venture between the French company Colas and the Govt of France. Colas is one of the leading providers of infrastructure solutions. It took almost five years for Colas to imagine and execute this project. It is one kilometre long stretch in a small village called tourouvre-au-perche in Normandy.
The French Ecology Minister has a very broad view about this project inspite of the high initial cost. This single lane of one kilometre cost almost 5 million euros. But probably in the future, such projects will provide sustainable energy solutions.
The Concept of World's first solar road:
The technology behind this solar road is called wattway. The most important advantage of wattway is that it can be laid on existing road infrastructure as a result there is no additional civil work needed. Thus, natural landscape and agricultural land can be conserved easily as wattway utilizes only the existing road infrastructure. It will also help to reduce emission problems.
The solution like solar road will add value to the existing sustainability approaches as world's demand for energy will be doubled in coming years. On an average, cars occupy roads only for 10% of the time. While they remain idle for rest of the time. Therefore, it is possible to utilise roads for energy generation during remaining time. 20 sq. meter of wattway slabs are enough to provide energy for one fireplace.
However, strength was the major concern of this project as roads are prone to massive forces from the vehicle plying on it. On the other hand, Photovoltaic cells are very fragile in nature. Finally, use of successive layers of composite material addressed this issue. In addition to various loads, this material can also withstand thermal expansion there by making this design practically viable.
Applications of solar roads:
The applications of this technology are numerous. Public places, street lights can utilize the energy generated from wattway. Furthermore, it will reduce the cost of transmission compared to a traditional grid. Thus, we can say that electricity is produced and consumed locally.
Apart from this, Colas is also working on induction technology where electric vehicles can be recharged in parking places or during the actual journey. If implemented, it can be a real 'path breaking' technology. It will be useful especially for remote places and villages!
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(All Images courtesy: Colas)