Thursday, 15 October 2015

Introducing the Solar Road

Developments in technology are shaping every aspect of the transport world, but one application that hadn't even occurred to me as possible until today is this - the solar road.

It seems that infrastructure company Colas has designed a new road surface comprising a thin layer of photovoltaic cells (yes, I had to look that up too) which essentially turns the road into a giant solar panel.

Just a few millimetres thick, Colas claim that this surface can be laid across the top of existing road surfaces with no civil engineering required, and linked to electrical connections at the side of the road.  The surface is apparently thick enough to withstand even the heaviest commercial traffic.

Colas further claim that one kilometre of road generates enough electricity to power the streetlights in a town of 5,000 people, and elsewhere today I read that if one third of all roads in France were covered in this stuff, it would generate enough electricity to meet the power needs of the entire country!

I have no technical expertise in this area at all, nor do I have any experience of Colas or knowledge of this product beyond what I have shared here and read in the press today.  It all sounds a bit too good to be true, which worries me because that usually means that it is too good to be true, but I have no basis on which to challenge their claims.

Even if only half true (and I'm sure Colas would acknowledge that there is a long way to go along the development curve), it seems to me to be a very exciting development.

Quite apart from the direct benefits of solar power, 'connected roads' offer all sorts of other potential, including the ability to charge electric vehicles while on the move, assist with the control of autonomous vehicles and manage traffic in real time and no doubt a whole host of other applications.

You can find out a bit more about Wattway by Colas here.  Time will tell, but definitely one to watch.

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