The French government announced its plan to build a 1,000 kilometer (621 mile) long stretch of solar panel-paved roads over the next five years. The locations for deployments have yet to be revealed. The fossil fuel tax is expected to bring in between 200 to 300 million euros ($220 to 440 million) of funding for the project coined “Positive Energy” .

Test laying of the Wattway panels.
Image via GCR

Paving roads with photovoltaic solar panels is an idea first put in practice in the Netherlands in 2014. The French government has announced plans to take that concept one step further and build a total of 1,000 kilometers of power-generating roads over the next five years. Their goal is to provide enough clean energy for 5 million people — about 8 percent of the current French population.

The roads will be built using Wattway panels, a photovoltaic technology unveiled last October by the major French civil engineering firm Colas. It took the firm five years to develop the panels that can be glued directly on top of existing pavement. These seven millimeter-thick strips harvest solar energy using a thin film of polycrystalline silicon, provide enough traction and are solid enough to withstand all types of traffic — Colas tested them under the weight of a 6-axle truck and they worked just fine.

“[The panels were tested on a] cycle of one million vehicles, or 20 years of normal traffic a road, and the surface does not move,” said Colas CEO Hervé Le Bouc.

The solar pavement also withstood the snowplow test, but the company recommends operating the machines with “a bit more care” than on pavement.

Colas CEO Hervé Le Bouc holding a Wattway panel.
Image via inhabitat

France’s Agency of Environment and Energy management states that four meters (13 feet) of solarized road is enough to power one household’s energy needs, not including heating, while one kilometer (3,281 feet) can supply enough electricity for 5,000 inhabitants.

According to Ségolène Royal, France’s minister of ecology and energy, the “Positive Energy” project will be funded by raising taxes on fossil fuels, a decision Royal says is “natural” given the low prices of oil. This is expected to cash in some 200 to 300 million euros ($220 to 440 million) in funding for the project.

Tenders for the “Positive Energy” initiative have been issued and tests on the solar panels will begin this spring. The government has yet to reveal the locations of the new roads.