Author: Jack
POSTED ON 23 Aug 2019

Solar Panel Road Experiment Fails In France

The idea was simple and in theory, a good way to kill two birds with one stone.

Roads provide only the function of allowing vehicles to travel from point a to point b on a smooth surface. They also take up a lot of space – which got the construction company Colas thinking. How could they use the roads to provide more than just one function?

Thus the idea of collecting solar energy using 2800 photovoltaic panels infused in the road was born. With a $5.5 million USD blessing from the French government, the “Wattway” project was a go. The photovoltaic panels were placed in 1km (.62mil) stretch of road in the town of Normandy, and covered in special resin to protect them from even the heaviest of 18 wheelers driving over them. The engineers had truly thought of everything – or so they thought.

After three years of testing, it would seem that the wheels have finally fallen off the Wattway project. One of the main issues regarding the project was the fact that the region is known for rarely seeing sunshine – just around 44 days of strong sunlight to be exact. Perhaps if the solar panels could move to try and capture the sunlight as best as possible,then it may have stood a chance in generating the promised electricity. Being directly epoxied into the road surface however meant that the only time the panels could capture the sunlight the most effectively was when the sun was directly overhead. Cars constantly driving over the panels also blocked the sunlight from reaching the panels – but that should have been expected.

The other problem with the project was the fact that the epoxy, although they did protect the panels from the vehicles passing overhead, splintered apart after a while creating ragged joints along the road. The epoxy was also very noisy to drive over – so much in fact that the speed limit had to be reduced.

Although this may have turned out to be an expensive failure, hopefully the engineers were able to learn from their mistakes and be able to provide a viable solution to effectively using roads to gather energy.