French Minister of Environment Ségolène Royal officially opened the world’s first solar road last week in Tourouvre-au-Perche. The road was built by Wattway and is one kilometer long (0.621 miles) with 2,880 solar panels.
It’s an energy experiment expected to produce 280 megawatt hours of power every year that cost France’s government $5.2 million. Wattway estimates that the road can consistently power the street lights in Tourouvre-au-Perche, even though Normandy isn’t exactly famous for its sunshine.
“We are still on an experimental phase. Building a trial site of this scale is a real opportunity for our innovation. This trial site has enabled us to improve our photovoltaic panel installing process as well as their manufacturing, in order to keep on optimizing our innovation,” said Wattway Director Jean-Charles Broizat in an official statement.
A similar project was proposed for the historic Route 66 in the U.S. by Idaho-based Solar Roadways. The company managed to crowdfund over $2.2 million in 2014 to bring the technology to market. Its large tempered glass solar panels will soon be tested on sidewalks and parking lots in Conway, Missouri on Route 66.
The results of both experiments will reveal the durability of photovoltaic panels on roads with constant traffic and perfect the installation process. It’s still too soon to tell whether it’ll be a success or a failure, but the introduction of the first solar road in the world is definitely another positive step toward higher usage of renewable energy around the world.