In the closing days of 2016, France opened the world’s first solar highway. The road in Normandy has been imbedded with photovoltaic panels to generate electricity. The one kilometer stretch of Road in the Normandy village of Tourouvre is expected to be able to power enough lighting for some 5000 streetlights.
Although tests have been carried out to roads which have been imbedded with silicone sheets, using the road as an operating public highway rather than in test conditions is now being carried out for the first time.
The French aim is to ultimately create some 1000km of roads over the next 4 years with initial further testing being implemented in Brittany and near Marseille.
Sceptics have considered the cost of the panels and the installation of the panels into the highway as some 17 times the cost of ground installed solar panels.
Some have said that running a strip along the south side of east west highways (in the case of France and the Northern Hemisphere), which are alongside the highway if there is enough embankment or rough land alongside the road is a very practical use of land that is far more cost efficient.
However when a new technology is first available, its costs are invariable expensive until economies of scale have kicked in and the research and development element has been re-couped.
Some have also suggested that any new road or widened road should build strips alongside the road in order to enable ground solar power panels to be placed alongside the road and reduce the impact on the environment.
The Normandy highway will be closely watched by those with an interest in environmentally friendly power generation and those with an interest in land use.