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France is set to roll out over 1,000km (621 miles) of solar road that will deliver an eco-friendly way to produce enough energy to power millions of households. The project was announced by Ségolène Royal, the country's minister of ecology and energy, and will see these electric avenues hit highways over the next five years.
The Wattway photovoltaic solar panels, which have been five years in development by Colas, will be laid over the top of existing roadways and harvest energy to provide electric power to approximately one household per metre. It is understood the amount of power will be sufficient enough for most household needs apart from heating.
The proposal is all part of the "Positive energy" initiative with the target to lay 1,000km of solar road – enough to stretch all the way from the southern border of France to London – in a bid to power 5 million homes (or 8% of France's population) with cleaner, renewable energy.
Where and when will the solar roads be installed?
Locations of where the solar roads will be laid has not yet been revealed but it has been said that the first highways will see the cells in the first half of 2016.
With the panels only 7mm thick the cost and time to retrofit them to roads will be relatively inexpensive and quick, with minimal disruption to traffic. Wattway has developed the technology so cars and trucks are able to freely drive over them as well as providing the same traction as tarmac, eliminating the threat of slipping when it rains.
A number of other countries are already experimenting with solarising its roads, with a project in the Netherlands having 70 metres of solar road in operation since 2014 in the form of a bike path, as well as an American Indiegogo campaign that has raised over $2m (£48m) to see power-providing, snow-melting roads in the US.