French infrastructure firm Colas joins power-generating road race

The concept of solar power generating roads gets another boost this week when French infrastructure company Colas unveils its photovoltaic surfacing product, called "Wattway".

The fruit of five years of research with the French National Institute for Solar Energy, Wattway paving panels are comprised of photovoltaic cells embedded in a multilayer substrate.

The company claims that 20 square metres of Wattway can power a single home, excluding heating, and that a 1-km-long section of road can power streetlights for a town of 5,000 people.

The race to bring power-generating roads to the market is now underway in three countries.

Last year a Dutch consortium built a 100-m stretch of power generating road for testing in Krommenie, the Netherlands.

And in the US a husband-and-wife team of inventors is pursuing the idea after a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Now Colas, a subsidiary of Bouygues, is getting in on the act.

"Today, our Wattway process is unique on a global level," said Hervé Le Bouc, chairman and chief executive of Colas. "The Solar Road will play a part in the energy transition, and is a building block for Smart Cities."

Wattway cells collect solar energy via a very thin film of polycrystalline silicon. In a statement, Colas said the sturdy and skid-resistant panels can be used on any road around the world, and are able to bear all types of vehicle traffic, including trucks.

Colas said Wattway uses existing infrastructure, removing the need to rip roads out and rebuild them.

The product is designed for cities, and for isolated, off-grid areas where hooking up to the electricity network is costly.

Wattway will be unveiled at the World Efficiency Congress in Paris this week.

Photograph: A section of Highway A41 North in France, built by Colas (Colas)

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  1. No doubt ! What an absolutely brilliant idea -born of careful research- and now being applied in practice! I am sure that every nation world-wide would welcome such new non-polluting, renewable energy
    delivering, technologically sustainable solutions to the energy crisis!! Surely our roof covering manufacturers
    should sit up and take note and see if this innovation could ,possibly, be incorporated into their respective roof covering materials and systems so as to add value to their products by affording their clients the added benefits a self-generating power supply to their new buildings!! Likewise with the effective treatment applied to our existing buildings’ roofs surely equal benefits could be realised!!

  2. Great news, but when are we going to see Tesla’s inventions being made available to everyone and applied worldwide, so that energy becomes dirt cheap or FREE indeed?!

  3. Great idea – but here in NYC our roads are essentially parking lots, so we’ll stick with other sources, thank you.

  4. ood effort- but how efficient will this be, since vehicular traffic would be partially and constantly shading the cells.

  5. Whats the cost of one square meter of this panel.

  6. Love the idea, I have panels on my roof myself. My question would be do the panels melt the snow or does the snow still need to be removed? Mine remain covered in snow and useless until it melts or I brush them off. My concern would be that snow plows scrape the pavement as it is, would the roadpanels be damaged?

  7. I like the idea that all external envelope has opportunity to exploit incident energy falling upon it. Roofing, cladding etc all suitable areas. Perhaps a negative on the road is the fact we have utilities below our roads. They need to work out how to design out the effects of two men a truck and a compressor

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