Colas SA – owned by the French engineering group Bouygues – has announced plans to commercialise solar panel roads at the beginning of 2018.
The technology has been developed over five years, and one hundred trial sites are currently being put in place.
Philippe Harelle, Chief Technology Officer at Colas SA’s Wattway unit, said: “We wanted to find a second life for a road... Solar farms use land that could otherwise be for agriculture, while the roads are free.”
Solar panels are increasingly being integrated into everyday materials such as roof tiles with companies such as Tesla, and building facades or pavements with Swedish Scania or American Solar Roadways.
The roads are formed from several layers of plastics which form a durable casing around a traditional solar panel, allowing them to hold the weight of heavy vehicles such as trucks.
An anti-slip surface made of crushed glass covers the installation.
Last October, the company started to build a one kilometre trial site in Tourouvre, a village in France.
According to Wattway, the installation, which involves 2,800 square metres of solar panels, will produce 280 KW at its peak.
The current issue is the price of the materials: one square metre of solar road costs between 2,000 and 2,500 euros - including monitoring, installation and data collection costs.
According to the company, the prices will be competitive with those of a solar farm by 2020.
The solar road will feed directly into the grid, feed charging points for electric vehicles, power a small hydrogen production plant and light electronic billboards.
Harelle said: “We need to test for all kinds of different traffic and climate conditions... I want to find the limits of it. We think that maybe it will not be able to withstand a snow plough.”
Wattway is planning on opening the next two trial sites in Calgary, Canada, and in the state of Georgia, US.
The company also has ambitions to build new solar roads in Africa, Japan and in various locations in Europe.