The ceremony, chaired by the Minister of the Environment Ségolène Royal, was held in Normandy, inaugurating the first kilometer of Wattway, the silicon photovoltaic soil which forms the first solar road in the world. This is the first step in a four-year plan from the French government.

The first section of solar road installed was built in Tourouvre-au-Perche, in Normandy.

A kilometer of photovoltaic roadway which was inaugurated with the intention of the government to develop 1000 kilometers of solar road throughout France in 5 years.

A first installation of 2,800 square meters. The solar highway is currently limited to one lane, but technicians say it is expected to provide around 280 megawatt hours per year. It will serve as a pilot test for 2 years, where it is estimated that 2,000 vehicles per day will operate it.

The panels are made with polycrystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, embedded in a substrate of resins and polymers, transparent enough to let in sunlight and strong enough to withstand heavy traffic. The whole thing is often only a few millimeters. It offers the same grip as a conventional road and withstands all types of climates.

The installation is simple, it is placed on the traditional road (provided that it does not have any holes or cracks). Their actual performance is still unknown: Wattway panels have a lower conversion efficiency than that of polysilicon photovoltaic modules currently on the market, because of their installation on the ground, they will also tend to get dirty more easily and reduce performance. in the absence of a constant cleaning system.

The electricity produced will be used for public lighting in Tourouvre-au-Perche.

This new way of producing solar energy uses a large part of the existing road infrastructure to generate electricity without having to build new installations.

The French company developing the project, Colas, wishes to reduce the production costs of flat panels in the years to come. They ensure that they already have 100 other projects underway to install solar roads in France and other countries.

An investment of 5 million euros, provided by the French government.

Images: The Guardian / Christophe Petit Tesson / EPA.