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France is implementing environmentally friendly thoroughfares by installing 1,000 kilometres of solar photovoltaic (PV) panelling on its roads over the next five years, the French environment minister Segolene Royal recently announced. French experts estimate that this could generate enough electricity to provide power to 5 million people, or about 8% of its population.

With traditional solar field installations requiring vast amounts of clear flat surface areas and rooftops, advantage of dense urban areas have been left unexplored—until now.

The idea is to make use of existing flat surfaces, such as roads, parking lots and large industrial areas, which could be potential homing sites for smaller PV fields.

Donald Müller-Judex, head of Solmove, a firm striving to become the first to install solar panels on German roads, said: “If we use places that we use as streets, it means we don’t need to use natural areas or fields.”

Solar transport routes

[quote]According to Daily News Egypt, this is not the first green innovation that has been tested in the public domain: “In the Netherlands, a 70 meter solar bike path was reported to have exceeded expectations by producing more than 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity – enough to power a small household for a year.”

According to the media, France is driving the implementation of solar roadways, which forms part of the country’s holistic “positive energy” initiative that seeks to electrify households with renewable power.

Optimal roadways

With highways causing a potential challenge due to the amount of shading required for the frequent flow of vehicles, Craig Morris, author of “Energy Switch” and contributor to The German Energiewende blog, told media that “shading kills solar, and you must have shade if there are cars.”

Müller-Judex acknowledges this concern but argued that highways won’t be considered for PV installation but rather small streets between villages and at locations such as industrial sites: “We will look for these places where there is less traffic and a high amount of sun – there are lots of places we could use.”

Noting that these installations would be less effective than a solar field, Müller-Judex estimates that for every square meter of solar roadway, 100 kilowatts could be produced annually, Daily News Egypt reported.

“30 square meters would have one household supported or one electricity car charged for one year for 11,000km,” Müller-Judex said.

Technology cost

Müller-Judex estimates that it will cost around 200 euros ($224) per panel, per square meter. But like history has shown, the price will fall.

“I think one day we will have the same price as other technologies. In 25 years it will be much lower than normal road – solar roads will earn money. We need time to develop a mass market.”

“We are trying to improve the concept with every new step. I believe that one day we will have a good product,” Müller-Judex concluded.