This is an interesting concept – a road that power the lights and signs along its length, rather than having everything connected to the grid.
Colas, a French company that was founded in the 1920s, has become a leader in transport infrastructure and are responsible for this new technology. The company was founded as a joint venture between the oil company Royal Dutch Shell and Societe Generale d’Entreprises to provide cold asphalt services to Governments for the sealing of roads. Over the years they have become a global provider by absorbing many different companies.
Colas have developed the “Wattway” in conjunction with INES, the French National Institute for Solar Energy. In essence, they have spent 5 years to merge the road building materials with photovoltaic technology. 20 square metres of roadway is claimed to be able to fully power one (French) house.
The theory is that most roads are only used around 10% of the day by vehicles, so for the remainder of the day, they are absorbing sun – and in Australia that means that a lot of roads are not being utilised – this technology allows more hours of utilisation: both transportation and energy generation. If more country roads around small towns had this surface, we could power the town without tapping in to the grid as much thus saving significant long term energy costs.
Even better, Wattway can be applied to existing roads when they are resurfaced and so there is no need to spend time and money ripping up the complete road base. The surface has been designed to provide maximum grip for the traffic and be as safe as possible. Use case testing is currently underway to manage larger volumes of traffic for wear.
The technology has been deployed in several test areas across France and even 7-Eleven in Japan is testing with the concept for their stores. If you think about it, this technology could be deployed around every sports stadium, in car parks and other areas that have periods of no traffic.
For me this is a great idea because there are thousands of kilometres of unused roads across the State let alone across the main populated areas of the country. This means that we can generate electricity without major infrastructure projects for hydro or large areas taken up with solar panels, supporting the older power stations that are slowly being decommissioned.