As countries around the world race to advance in Solar, China becomes the first to have a part of their highway to be completely Solar. In the capital of China’s Shandong province, the Chinese government opened a kilometer-long stretch of solar highway. Even though France and the Netherlands made the first solar roads, China was the first to create a highway with this Nascent technology.  

The solar panels cover 5,875 square meters and can generate 1 million kilowatt-hours of power a year, which is also enough to meet the energy demands of about 800 homes. The road consists of a transparent concrete on top, with photovoltaic panels in the middle, and insulating layers on the bottom.  

The road can do a lot more than just harness the power of the sun for rays of electricity. They also believe the site is going to provide other clean energy technologies including wireless charging for electric vehicles and provide internet connection for vehicles as they go through the strip.  

The hope is that if the technology is effective then it will be able to power anything and everything from signboards to street lights, to even a snow-melting system on the road.  

Xu Chunfu, the group’s chairman behind the Solar road said, “The project will save the space for building solar farms and shorten the transmission distance.” 

Despite, the effectiveness of the road so far and the future that this project may bring there have been several critics to the entire project itself. Complaints like it being too expensive to fund by governments or private companies. The average China road costs about $458 per square meter, which is a lot more expensive than the roads we use in America because traditional asphalt tends to be economically sound (and the Chinese don’t use asphalt).  

Ségolène Royal inaugurates the solar panel road. Photograph: Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

By 2020, the country plans to build 54.5GW of large-scale solar projects as apart of China’s multibillion-dollar investment in renewable energy; the hope is that this project leads to more projects in the next couple of years.  

China isn’t the only country to get ahead on this technology, even though they are the first to put this on a highway, other countries have already used this technology for their roads. 

The future of Solar Highways in other countries:  

China was the first country to create a solar highway, but the first solar panel road was installed in a small village in Normandy, France. The 2.800 square meter of electricity-generating panels is an only 1km route in the small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche, and it cost €5m. The route will be used by over 2,000 motorists a day during the two-year test period on this technology.  

The goal is to find out if it can generate enough energy to power street lighting for 3,400 residents. Even though this was the first solar panel road for cars to drive on; Switzerland released a solar road for bikes back in 2014.  

In Krommenie, Netherlands a solar-powered cycle path opened up in 2014 for the public to use. So far, the cycling path has been a success and has generated over 3,000Wh of energy, which is enough to power the average family home for a year. But the price of construction for the bike path could have paid for 520,000Wh in comparison.   

The Critics Critique of Solar Roads So Far 

The largest critique of all Solar road projects so far is that it’s too expensive, and because of that it’s not worth public funding. This occurred in China, and it also occurred in France and Switzerland. For example, in Normandy Marc Jedlczka, vice-president of Network for Energetic Transition (CLER) told Le Monde (a French magazine), “It’s, without doubt, a technical advance, but in order to develop renewables there are other priorities than a gadget of which we are more certain that it’s very expensive than the fact it works.”  

This critique is correct, but what they fail to mention is that every technological advancement was too expensive in the beginning and that over time if there is a demand for solar roads and other things solar (which there is), then over time the price will begin to fall, due to competition.  

This occurred with phones, and we are just beginning to see it with electric vehicles, but what about the roads and highways these vehicles drive on? Well, this is just the beginning of harnessing the power of the sun on the road we walk on, and at the beginning, it’s going to be pricey, but it’s going to be worth it.  

Sources:  

https://www.ecowatch.com/china-solar-highway-2520728544.html 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/22/solar-panel-road-tourouvre-au-perche-normandy 

http://www.sciencealert.com/world-s-first-solar-road-opens-in-the-netherlands 

 

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