After nearly five years of research and laboratory tests, a French company installing pilot projects comprising rugged solar panel roadways that are capable of withstanding the weight of an 18-wheeler truck. The company, Wattway, is building 100 outdoor test sites and plans to commercialize its technology in early 2018. The actual solar panel is an ordinary model similar to those on rooftops, but it is encased in several layers of clear, durable plastics. Wiring is embedded in the road and roadway is topped by an anti-slip surface made from crushed glass. A kilometer-sized testing was built last month in Normandy. The 2,800 square meters of solar panels are expected to generate 280 kilowatts at peak, enough to power all the public lighting in a town of 5,000 for a year. For now, the cost of the materials – about $2,126 per square meter – makes only demonstration projects sensible, but Wattway expects rapidly falling solar costs to make the roadways price competitive with traditional solar farms by 2020.
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