Missouri’s plan to pave a section of Route 66 with solar panels doesn’t hold a candle to France’s ambitious initiative to cover 1,000 kilometers of road with solar-pavers—generating enough electricity to meet the energy needs of roughly 8 percent of the country’s inhabitants.
The photovoltaic pavers were developed by Colas, a French infrastructure company that spent five years building and testing their Wattway solar road panels. Each rectangular section is just 7 millimeters thick. Glued directly to the roadway, the pavers are supposed to be strong enough to support the weight of a continuous stream of traffic, including 6-axle trucks.
A 14-foot section of the solar roadway is projected to generate enough electricity for a single French household. A kilometer (0.62 miles) of the road should generate enough for a community of 5,000 people.
France’s minister of ecology and energy, Ségolène Royal, has said the first Wattway panels will be installed this year. The full 600-plus miles of paneled roads are slated for completion by 2021. The cost will be covered by progressive tax increases on fossil fuels, expected to generate roughly $440 million for Royal’s green energy initiatives.