The idea had promise… sort of.
Governments would install solar panels in roadways instead of asphalt. The roads are constantly facing the sky and are uncovered. The panels were specially built to withstand the daily beating of traffic.
It all sounds good, but it doesn’t work.
The French road in Normandy covers 2,800 square meters and was supposed to generate 790 kWh each day. It produced about half that in the first year, and approximately 100 yards of it deteriorated so quickly it had to be demolished. And the noise. The road is particularly noisy when cars drive on it, so traffic has been limited to 70 kph, or about 42 mph.
In the U.S., we spent $6.1 million on a “solar road,” where 75% of the panels were broken before installation was complete in 2016, and 83% of panels are now broken. And it can’t be driven on. Even if the panels worked, it would generate very little power.
But all is not lost. The Dutch built a 70-meter solar panel bicycle path in Holland that they had originally hoped would produce somewhere between 50 and 70 kWh per square meter per year. Instead the first year it actually yielded 73 kWh per square meter per year, and the second, 93 kWh per square meter per year.
The Dutch are now building a couple of sections of solar-panel laden roads. Let’s hope they have greater success than the French and Americans.