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Report: Solar Road Test Performs Poorly

Friday, August 16, 2019

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A stretch of solar road, originally launched in Normandy, France, in 2016, with promises of being able to power several thousand homes, has failed to live up to expectations, according to reports. Issues included solar panels not being able to withstand common wear and tear, among other problems.

According to Business Insider, the project, covering 2,800 square meters of road, running 0.6 miles long, was among the first in the world, though two years later, the project was deemed inefficient and not profitable.

Solar Panel Roads

The panels on the roadway have splintered, peeled away and otherwise degraded, with one 100-meter section being so damaged that it was demolished. Other than being unable to handle the wear and tear of tractors and inclement weather, the panels also could not put up with leaf mold. The stretch of road was also loud, which necessitated limiting traffic speeds to 70 km/h.

Around the time of the test project's launch, France announced larger plans to implement 1,000 kilometers (around 620 miles) of photovoltaic panels on roads, ultimately powering 5 million homes.

Originally, plans for the smaller section of road would have had the solar panels generate 790 kWh daily, providing power for between 3,000 and 5,000 inhabitants. In the first year, the results were roughly half of that, totaling 150,000 kWh for the year. This was roughly halved by 2018 (amounting to 78,000 kWh), and down to 38,000 since the beginning of this year.

Developed by Wattway—the company responsible for developing the panels—the 5-million-euro (about $5.6 million) project was funded by the Ministry of the Environment. The panels used in the project implemented a film of polycrystalline silicon that designers thought would be able to withstand heavy traffic, along with providing sufficient traction.

Wattway currently has around 45 other solar projects in various stages of development around the globe; half of these are in France.

Other Solar Road Projects

In 2014, a solar bike path was installed in the Dutch town of Krommenie, and was created by a public-private partnership and dubbed SolaRoad. The project had good early results; in its first six months, the array generated 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, at the upper limit of what its developers were expecting.

In 2016, Idaho-based Solar Roadways announced the commencement of developing hexagonal solar panels that are about 4.39 square feet; the-then prototypes were 48-watt panels.

In early 2018, a 6-foot panel was stolen from China’s first photovoltaic highway. Those who committed the theft also damaged seven surrounding panels in the process. The 0.6-mile stretch of road, located in Jinan, opened for testing on Dec. 28, 2017, and five days later, a routine inspection revealed the theft and the damage.


Tagged categories: EU; Europe; Infrastructure; Photovoltaic coatings; Program/Project Management; Research; Roads/Highways; Solar; Solar energy

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (8/16/2019, 7:34 AM)

Not surprising in the least. "Solar Roadways" has quite a few fundamental problems, and it's much cheaper to put solar panels in better locations even if only using them in "dual use" areas (Commercial rooftop, industrial rooftop, parking lot shade structures, residential rooftop, even over the road.) Fundamentally, "solar roads" are at a poor angle (cutting output), get enormously more physical abuse (raising costs), get dirty very easily (cutting output) and are shaded by vehicles (cutting output).

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