France Is Paving Its Future with Solar

France is building a solar energy system on top of its roadways.


France plans on pulling its weight post-Paris climate talks, at which 195 nations made a commitment toward building a zero-emission economy. The country has started by laying down 621 miles of solar panels to supply 5 million people across France with renewable energy.

Other countries have been testing the idea of solar roadways through solar bike paths. These small-scale projects operate as a pilot program to see if installing photovoltaic cells would be profitable on larger roads. These real-world trials examine potential losses in solar absorption from blockage from pollution, passing cyclists and pedestrians, and weather.

"If we can additionally incorporate solar cells in road pavements, then a large extra area will become available for decentralized solar energy generation without the need for extra space ... and just part of the roads which we build and use anyway," says Sten de Wit from the SolaRoad consortium in an interview with Fast Co.

Results from SolaRoad's six-month test in the Netherlands suggest that rooftop installations are far more efficient than roads with solar cells slapped on.

France has decided to take a huge leap forward. It will be the first time solar panels will be installed on public roads. Over the next five years, France's roads will be paved with Wattway solar cells. The panels can be glued on top of the existing pavement, so the roads won't have to be ripped up and repaved — a major cost-saving measure. Also, unlike SolaRoad's panels, Wattway's are 0.3 inch thick and made from a thin film of polycrystalline silicon.

The estimated cost of solarizing France's roadways falls somewhere between $220 and $440 million, which will be paid for by raising the tax on gas, according to Ségolène Royal, France’s minister of ecology and energy. The panels are built to last between 10 and 20 years depending on the amount of traffic the road receives.

Wattway's website says 0.62 mile of these cells will help power the lights for 5,000 inhabitants. This solar roadway would help slash energy use from fossil fuels for 8 percent of France's population. The question remains whether solar roadways are the right action for governments to take against climate change. The truth is there isn't enough data to say for sure.

The way toward a renewable future won't be easy. Geography was an issue in Japan, but the country has engineered a way. Each country will have its own roadblocks to overcome. The important thing is action is being taken toward upsetting the established energy infrastructure built around fossil fuels. With the right research and investments, the entire world could be powered by renewables as early as 2050. Let's hope solar roads are the right step for governments.

***

Photo Credit: © COLAS – Joachim Bertrand

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

If you want to spot a narcissist, look at the eyebrows

Bushier eyebrows are associated with higher levels of narcissism, according to new research.

Big Think illustration / Actor Peter Gallagher attends the 24th and final 'A Night at Sardi's' to benefit the Alzheimer's Association at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 9, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
popular
  • Science has provided an excellent clue for identifying the narcissists among us.
  • Eyebrows are crucial to recognizing identities.
  • The study provides insight into how we process faces and our latent ability to detect toxic people.
Keep reading Show less

Why are women more religious than men? Because men are more willing to take risks.

It's one factor that can help explain the religiosity gap.

Photo credit: Alina Strong on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • Sociologists have long observed a gap between the religiosity of men and women.
  • A recent study used data from several national surveys to compare religiosity, risk-taking preferences and demographic information among more than 20,000 American adolescents.
  • The results suggest that risk-taking preferences might partly explain the gender differences in religiosity.
Keep reading Show less