Photo Credit: Wattway

A French company is negotiating plans to test its rugged solar-panels on road surfaces in the Canadian city of Calgary.

The process is part of a bigger plan to test the installations on four continents in 2017 with the U.S. state of Georgia being next after Calgary. Other continents include Africa, Japan and throughout the European Union.

Solar freakin’ roadways, is that you?

Well no! This is not the crowdfunded solar roadways project from the United States that almost broke the internet with its viral youtube video a few years back.

This is a specific part of a company, Wattway, within the Colas Group, a world leader in the construction and maintenance of transport infrastructure involved in designing solar-panels that embed into roads.

Wattway, much like the Solar Roadways company in the United States is also working on the engineering problems involved with putting photovoltaic cells under a driving or walking surface.

“We wanted to find a second life for a road,” Philippe Harelle, the chief technology officer at Colas SA’s Wattway unit told Bloomberg. “Solar farms use land that could otherwise be for agriculture, while the roads are free.”

Bloomberg reports that a kilometer-sized testing site began construction last October 2016 in the French village of Tourouvre in Normandy.

Adding that the 2,800 square meters of solar panels are expected to generate 280 kilowatts at peak, with the installation generating enough to power all the public lighting in a town of 5,000 for a year.

Photo Credit: Wattway

Photo Credit: Wattway

The rugged solar panels are capable of withstanding the weight of an 18-wheeler truck, and after nearly five years of research and laboratory tests, they’re constructing 100 outdoor test sites and plan to commercialize the technology in early 2018.

Photo Credit: Wattway

Photo Credit: Wattway

A report from Environment Canada indicates that Calgary is the sunniest big city in Canada with an average of 2,396 hours of sun each year, which is why is has been chosen for this test install.

David Wood, an NSERC/ENMAX Industrial Research Chair in Renewable Energy at the University of Calgary, in a statement to Calgary Metro said while the idea is interesting, he sees some disadvantages with putting solar panels on roads.

“Photovoltaic output is very sensitive to shading,” he said. “Every time a car or truck drives over a road mounted module, it will cut off energy production. On a busy road, production would be small.”

Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has over a decade of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

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