The world’s first solar road has officially crumbled into a total failure

Posted: August 16, 2019 by oldbrew in Energy, innovation, News, Travel
Tags: , ,

Solar panel road [image credit: Wattway]

The rotting leaves didn’t help, says ScienceAlert. Neither did the local tractors. Solar panels should be angled towards the Sun anyway, but that kills the whole road idea.

In July, the French daily newspaper Le Monde reported that the 0.6-mile (1 kilometre) solar road was a fiasco.

In December 2016, when the trial road was unveiled, the French Ministry of the Environment called it “unprecedented”. French officials said the road, made of photovoltaic panels, would generate electricity to power streetlights in Tourouvre, a local town.

But less than three years later, a report published by Global Construction Review says France’s road dream may be over.

Cracks have appeared, and in 2018, part of the road had to be demolished due to damage from wear and tear.

Even at its peak, the road was only producing half of the expected energy, because engineers didn’t take into consideration rotting leaves falling on the road.

Here is what the road looked like in all of its former glory, and how it got to this point.

It was all smiles and high hopes in 2016, when the world’s first solar panel road, called Wattway, opened. France spent US$5.2 million on 0.6 miles (1 kilometre) of road, and 30,000 square feet (3,000 square metres) of solar panels. It was hailed as the longest solar road in the world.

Media gathered around to take a walk down what was thought to be the road of the future. The French minister for energy said she wanted to have solar panels on one mile of road every 621 miles in the country within the next five years.

Despite grey skies on the day of the inauguration, France was leading the world for solar transportation.

But the brake was never removed, and the wheels never started rolling – so to speak.

It was a bold move beginning a solar panel trial in Normandy, France, since the region doesn’t have the most sunshine. Caen, a city in Normandy, only has 44 days of strong sunshine in a year. Thunderstorms also reportedly broke solar panels on the road.

The trial road was meant to produce about 150,000 kWh a year, which is enough power to provide light for up to 5,000 people, every day. Instead, it was making just under 80,000 in 2018, and fewer than 40,000 by July 2019.

Colas, the company that built the road, said in 2016 that the solar panels were covered with resin containing sheets of silicon to make them capable of withstanding all traffic. But since the opening, panels have come loose or broken into little pieces.

In May 2018, 300 feet (90 metres) of the road had to be demolished since it wasn’t salvageable.

Full report here.

  1. clem says:

    Wow, what a surprise – I bet no one predicted this would happen….

  2. stewgreen says:

    Oldbrew bad link at the end there : “Full report here.”

    [mod] fixed, thanks

  3. pameladragon says:

    This is quite funny and was bound to happen. Some years back Nelson County, Virginia, USA, made a bold move to experiment with solar heating of a small bridge, only two lanes, over a small stream. They were repaving anyway and the Department of Transportation decided to see if they could heat the road surface enough with solar to prevent it icing in winter, a major problem in the Blue Ridge Mts. At the time, I thought the idea might actually have merit and could be useful up in the mountains. Alas, it was a failure. The only bright spot in this experiment is that it was on a very small scale so not an expensive failure.

  4. Graeme No.3 says:

    Will it feature in the Guiness Book of Records as the fastest collapse of a solar beat-up?

  5. oldbrew says:

    The French minister for energy said she wanted to have solar panels on one mile of road every 621 miles in the country within the next five years.

    Unlucky – bring on the next fanciful scheme.

    I had thought of calling it ecoballs – but that’s a trade name…

    Ecozone Ecoballs are an innovative alternative to your usual laundry detergents

    That should boost sales 😆

  6. JB says:

    The debacle may still well be “unprecedented” in alternative energy, although the collapse of the wind generator at the South Pole is a strong contender, IMO. The panels couldn’t withstand the forces of human trafficking, while the generator couldn’t withstand the forces of Nature.

  7. Stephen Richards says:

    But Royal will suffer no loss of earnings, no loss of job. It’s us, the french taxpayer who lose. The globalist marxists could not give one iota.

  8. Stephen Richards says:

    4.000.000 € in the poubelle.

  9. ivan says:

    I said at the time it opened it would fall apart and not supply anywhere near the output they expected. I also gave it a year before it fell apart, so it lasted a little longer but still will end up in landfill.

    Typical results when you have people with ‘feelings’ doing things rather than hard headed engineers.

  10. It doesn't add up... says:

    Meanwhile on the vexed question of whether Hornsea caused the power blackout:

    It seems the answer is still yes, although we will have to wait until OFGEM release the detailed report.

    a project spokesperson for Hornsea 1 said: “During a rare and unusual set of circumstances affecting the grid, Hornsea One experienced a technical fault which meant the power station rapidly de-loaded – that is it stopped producing electricity.

    “Normally the grid would be able to cope with a loss of this volume (800MW). If National Grid had any concerns about the operation of Hornsea 1 we would not be allowed to generate. The relevant part of the system has been reconfigured and we are fully confident should this extremely rare situation arise again, Hornsea 1 would respond as required.”

    National Grid will share blame for the outage – which affected more than a million Britons and caused transport chaos at peak commuter time – between a range of parties after an initial lightning strike on a power line, according to leaked media reports.

    So their offshore substation was “wrongly configured” which cause the trip.

    [reply] noted, thanks

  11. Saighdear says:

    Huh,we have “unbreakable ” glass on Pavements = walkways -so why be so desperately stupidly progressive and go for broke by putting the panels on roads. Not exactly rocket science to work out the pressure on the cells from heavy vehicles – dammit man – even a small Farmers livestock trailer ( no names) has tyres running at 90psi or so. Then the wave / ripple effect of heavy trucks at even 30mph which can eventually lead to the breakdown of macadam substrate and concrete underneath.
    May have been a more positively accepted result if thepavements were paved with solar panels instead! and Heh! – if ye hadem in e streets wi street lightin’ they wid keep themsel’s goin 😉

  12. oldbrew says:

    Solar panels in northern Europe need to be at an optimal angle to the ground somewhere around 40 degrees IIRC. Anything else is less efficient, how much less depends on how far outside the ‘correct’ angle it is. Ideally facing south for maximum exposure to the Sun of course.

  13. Stephen Richards says:

    I thought the first solar ” road ” was in Belgium.

  14. oldbrew says:

    Solar Roadways passes $1.4 million in crowdfunding: Just short of the $56 trillion required, but not bad for a crazy idea
    By Sebastian Anthony on May 27, 2014

    As much as I’d love the US to be blanketed in green, fossil fuel-replacing electrified Solar Roadways, it just isn’t feasible. On the small scale, there could well be some companies that roll out Solar Roadway parking lots — but I think that’s about it, for the foreseeable future.

    Presumably the parking spaces would NOT be solar powered 😐
    – – –
    Solar Roadways: An Engineering FAILURE

    After years of development and millions of dollars (including government funding), all of the solar roadways installed today do not produce cost-effective energy production. The roads are expensive and produce far less electricity than what could be produced if the money was used on a solar farm- or by simply placing them by the side of the road. However, it is not the only flaw in turning roads into giant solar panels.

  15. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    This white elephant has ceased to be. One could argue that it was originally sold in that state.

  16. oldbrew says:

    Saighdear says: ‘May have been a more positively accepted result if the pavements were paved with solar panels instead!’
    – – –
    Maybe, but who would want to walk on wet glass in or after rain? And still the same inefficiency problem of not facing the Sun.

  17. Dave Ward says:

    “So their offshore substation was “wrongly configured” which cause the trip”

    Sounds like the situation in South Australia, where the “Ride Through” settings of the protection circuits were adjusted to be less sensitive after the event…

  18. It doesn't add up... says:

    It’s the daily track of the sun across the sky from East or North East in high summer to West or North West that provides the biggest angular problem for solar panels on a roof. In sunnier climes, solar parks often have panels that rotate to follow the sun in that orientation. In the tropics it may also be worth following the sun’s altitude in the sky which baker varies between 0 degrees and 90 degrees. But one and two axis trackers need to be more widely spaced to they don’t cast shadows on the next panel, and they’re not much good if you want to run a road over the top.

  19. Curious George says:

    How the guys express themselves: “Our system is not mature on long distance traffic.”

  20. Ve2 says:

    Another $5.2 million p15sed up against the wall in the name of saving the planet