Three Years Later, the French Solar Road Is a Total Flop

  
Via:  badfish-hd-h-u  •  one month ago  •  21 comments

Three Years Later, the French Solar Road Is a Total Flop

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


It was a solar experiment that seemed ingenious in its simplicity: fill a road with photovoltaic panels and let them passively soak up the rays as cars drive harmlessly above. The idea has been tried a few times, notably in rural France in 2016 with what was christened the "Wattway."

Three years later, even the most optimistic supporters have deemed the Wattway a failure.

The Wattway consists of 2,800 photovoltaic panels lining one kilometer (0.62 miles) on the way to the small northern town of Tourouvre-au-Perch in Normandy. At the   time of its opening   its builder, the construction group Colas, part of telecoms group Bouygues, said that the solar panels were covered with a resin containing silicon, strong enough to fend off traffic even from 18-wheelers.

"The engineers of this project surely did not think about the tractors that would roll over," Pascal and Eric, two local roofers leaning on the counter of the Café de Paris, Tourouvre-au-Perche,   told the French newspaper   Le Monde   in 2019. While the resin coating might be strong enough to keep a big rig from crushing the solar panels, the two said that driving over it generates so much noise that locals required the road's speed limit to be lowered to 70 km/h, or a paltry 43 mph.

Le Monde   describes the road as "pale with its ragged joints," with "solar panels that peel off the road and the many splinters that enamel resin protecting photovoltaic cells." It's a poor sign for a project that French government invested in to the tune of €5 million, or $5,546,750.

The noise and poor upkeep aren't the only problems facing the Wattway. Through shoddy engineering, the Wattway isn't even generating the electricity it promised to deliver. In 2016, the builders promised it would power 5,000 households.

There proved to be several problems with this goal. The first was that Normandy is not historically known as a sunny area. At the time, the region's capital city of Caen only got 44 days of strong sunshine a year, and not much has changed since. Storms have wrecked havoc with the systems, blowing circuits. But even if the weather was in order, it appears the panels weren't built to capture them efficiently.

“If they really want this to work, they should first stop cars driving on it,” Marc Jedliczka, vice president of the Network for Energetic Transition (CLER), which promotes renewable energy,   told the   Eurasia Times .

To power the households, the road was expected to generate 790 kilowatt-hours per day, but that failed. How? It might seem simple, but solar panels are most efficient when pointed toward the sun. Because the project needed to be a road as well as a solar generator, however, all of its solar panels are flat. So even within the limited sun of the region, the Wattway was further limiting itself.

Jedliczka says Colas pursued the project too quickly before fully investigating its cost effectiveness.

“It confirms the total absurdity of going all-out for innovation to the detriment of solutions that already exist and are more profitable, such as solar panels on roofs,” Jedliczka told   Le Monde .

For its part, Colas has admitted the project is a bust. “Our system is not mature for inter-urban traffic,” Etienne Gaudin, Colas' chief executive of Wattway, told   Le Monde . The company also operates 40 similar solar roads, smaller than the one in Normandy.

Other solar roads across the globe have faced a variety of challenges. In 2018, a week after a solar road opened in China, its   solar panels were stolen .

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†hε pε⊕pレε'š ƒïšh
1  seeder  †hε pε⊕pレε'š ƒïšh    one month ago

Solar panel road?

What could go wrong?

jrSmiley_10_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
It Is ME
1.1  It Is ME  replied to  †hε pε⊕pレε'š ƒïšh @1    one month ago

I wonder if AOC read this. jrSmiley_99_smiley_image.jpg

 
 
 
Cerenkov
1.1.1  Cerenkov  replied to  It Is ME @1.1    one month ago

Not enough pictures.

 
 
 
It Is ME
1.1.2  It Is ME  replied to  Cerenkov @1.1.1    one month ago

jrSmiley_18_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
Tacos!
3  Tacos!    one month ago

I appreciate the desire to have more solar panels in the world, but when you consider what vehicles do to regular roads over time, this is kind of a head-scratcher.

 
 
 
TᵢG
4  TᵢG    one month ago

What a strange idea to place solar panels in a high-stress, high-wear situation like a road.     Stick with rooftops.    If they really wanted to do this they probably could make it work on sidewalks, but still that is unnecessary wear and probably a very odd looking sidewalk.

 
 
 
MUVA
4.1  MUVA  replied to  TᵢG @4    one month ago

My son showed me a road that was solar and also let you change lanes around for  high traffic times.

 
 
 
TᵢG
4.1.1  TᵢG  replied to  MUVA @4.1    one month ago
... let you change lanes around ...

A cool feature, but only if the initiative is in itself practical.

 
 
 
bccrane
4.2  bccrane  replied to  TᵢG @4    one month ago

A sidewalk is an even worse idea, first is, like the road, the panels won't be aimed towards the sun they'll be just flat on the ground, second sidewalks are within communities with shade from trees, buildings, and other structures, third kids.

 
 
 
Sparty On
4.2.1  Sparty On  replied to  bccrane @4.2    one month ago

My town now has a nice change on a main thoroughfare.     It was a five lane road, two lanes on each side and a middle turning lane.   A nice set up that worked well if not a little undersized for the traffic it handled.   Our city council, in all their wisdom, decided a change was in order.

Now we have a nice three lane road.   One lane on each side and a turning lane.   But we also have two very fine bike lanes, one each side.   It's great for the half a dozen or so bikes i see on it every day.   Meanwhile the vehicular traffic is more or less bumper to bumper all day long now.

But the bikers on the council are VERY pleased with themselves ......

 
 
 
bccrane
4.2.2  bccrane  replied to  Sparty On @4.2.1    one month ago

Yeah there does seem to be a lot of that going on now.  We have bike lanes, trails, and rail trails that are used by a very few.  When a trail opened up near us, ten miles away, we loaded up the bicycles once went a couple miles either way and never did it again.

 
 
 
Sparty On
4.2.3  Sparty On  replied to  bccrane @4.2.2    one month ago

I'm all for bike lanes/paths etc, just not at the expense of vehicular traffic.   The vehicular traffic doesn't go away.   It just sits bumper to bumper longer and/or becomes congestion on a different road.

The change made no sense.   The public was resoundingly against it but the council went ahead anyway.   They'll all get voted off next election but their monument, that road, will still be there.   That money ain't coming back to the taxpayers.

 
 
 
TᵢG
4.2.4  TᵢG  replied to  bccrane @4.2    one month ago
A sidewalk is an even worse idea, first is, like the road, the panels won't be aimed towards the sun they'll be just flat on the ground, second sidewalks are within communities with shade from trees, buildings, and other structures, third kids.

How do you figure sidewalks are worse than streets??

I stated that if they really wanted to put these panels on a flat surface on land (rather than buildings) then sidewalks are better than streets.

  • Your first objection makes no sense given the premise.
  • Your second objection of shade presumes that they would pick sidewalks with shade.   There are plenty of sidewalks (walkways) that are not shaded.
  • Your final objection (kids) was not detailed.   What are you thinking, vandalism?

The advantage of sidewalks over streets is the problem of wear and tear.   Sidewalks have far less traffic and the traffic is much lighter (feet, strollers and bicycles).    The noise and upkeep were cited as the key problems; sidewalks do not have this problem.

My urban (not rural) suggestion (not considering the premise of having this be flat and street-level) was for cities to place the solar panels on the roofs of buildings.   I would also suggest the sun-facing walls of buildings.   

 
 
 
bccrane
4.2.5  bccrane  replied to  TᵢG @4.2.4    one month ago

Sun tracking panels would be better, flat to ground panels would only be good for a few hours a day and they are still not angled to the sun for better efficiency (this is where the road and sidewalk installations have the same problem).  Where I live the longest day is 16 hours of sun, but the sun rises in the NE and sets in the NW and with stationary panels the best exposure would last about 10 hours and the shortest day is 8 hours long.  

Most sidewalks are located in urban areas in close proximity to buildings and trees are planted to provide shade and beautification.  

As for kids, that was kinda self explanatory, you got the one vandalism, sidewalk painting another, but worse, curiosity attempting to remove or explore around the panel and with a metal tool a possibility of electrocution.

 
 
 
TᵢG
4.2.6  TᵢG  replied to  bccrane @4.2.5    one month ago
Sun tracking panels would be better

Well of course sun tracking panels are better, but my comment was about where to best use flat, unmovable panels.   

Most sidewalks are located in urban areas in close proximity to buildings and trees are planted to provide shade and beautification.  

And plenty of walkways are exposed to the sun.   Those would be the first candidates.

As for kids, that was kinda self explanatory, you got the one vandalism, sidewalk painting another, but worse, curiosity attempting to remove or explore around the panel and with a metal tool a possibility of electrocution.

You stated that sidewalks were worse than streets yet all this can happen on the streets too.   Further, I doubt sidewalk painting or vandalism would be a problem any more than it is on concrete surfaces.   Depends heavily on the location.  Easy enough to have a fail-safe to prevent shock and a secure mounting to mitigate theft; this is likely part of the existing design.


Regardless, I do not (and did not) suggest that flat, surface mounted panels is a good idea.   I stated that if they really felt the need to do this then sidewalks are a better choice than streets.

 
 
 
SteevieGee
5  SteevieGee    one month ago

Seems to me like a maintenance nightmare.

 
 
 
Nerm_L
6  Nerm_L    one month ago

Well, the result isn't too surprising.  But it is necessary to perform these tests.  An electrified roadway would provide power for vehicles that use it (like an electrified tramway).  And there are obvious advantages for placing solar panels in the roadway rather than on structures above the roadway.

Unfortunately applied engineering research has become the red haired stepchild for public funding.  It's necessary to over hype engineering research projects to compete with sexy science.  And that need to over hype funding requests naturally results in the sort of press coverage we see here.

According to the reporting this particular project cost $5 million.  By comparison, the New Horizon drone mission to Pluto cost $720 million over ten years.  But New Horizon was sexy science (not particularly useful but sexy).  We did get some nifty T-shirts from the New Horizon mission.

 
 
 
Drakkonis
6.1  Drakkonis  replied to  Nerm_L @6    one month ago
But it is necessary to perform these tests.

Totally agreed! Perhaps this is an unworkable idea but it wasn't a bad one. I'm sure this has generated a lot of data that will perhaps lead to a workable solution. 

 
 
 
Ronin2
7  Ronin2    one month ago

Not every idea is worth trying. This just proves it. What a waste of money and resources.

 
 
 
Sparty On
8  Sparty On    one month ago

This project never should have made it past a feasibility study phase.

I bet feel good "green energy" specialists drove this project.  

No good Designer/Engineer would ever let something like this happen.

 
 
 
Freefaller
9  Freefaller    one month ago

Definitely poor planning and execution imo

 
 
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