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France to pave roads using solar panels

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Staff writer ▼ | February 8, 2016
France has ambitious plans to pave a 621-mile stretch of roads with the solar panels over the next five years.
France solar road
Green way   Translucent enough, resistant enough
The project is called "Positive Energy." Alexandru Micu of ZME Science said this would not be the first move to pave roads with solar panels, as an idea of photovoltaic solar panels for paving was put in practice in the Netherlands.

In this instance, attention is being focused on the French plan's solar panels and their materials. These are Wattway panels, using a photovoltaic technology from French civil engineering firm Colas. It was developed by Colas in partnership with the French National Solar Energy Institute.

Composites Manufacturing, the publication of the American Composites Manufacturers Association, described these energy-harvesters: The photovoltaic cells are coated in a multilayer substrate composed of various resins and polymers.

"The substrate is translucent enough to allow sunlight to pass through, but also resistant enough to withstand truck traffic."

They are considered as solid enough to withstand all types of traffic. "Colas tested them under the weight of a 6-axle truck and they worked just fine," said Micu. The material can adapt to thermal expansion in road surfaces.

They were tested on a cycle of 1 million vehicles, or 20 years of normal traffic, "and the surface does not move," said Colas CEO Hervé Le Bouc, in ZME Science.

The panels can be glued directly on top of the existing pavement. This "solarizing" of roads involves gluing the 7mm-thick strips to the surface of the carriageway, said David Rogers in Global Construction Review. That brings benefits in that there is no need to rip out the existing structure.