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Transportation

France To Pave 1000km of Road With Solar Panels (solarcrunch.org) 407

An anonymous reader writes: France is planning on a project to build 1000 kilometers of road with specially designed solar panels. This project will supply 5 million people in France with electricity if it is successful. Though many solar experts are skeptical of this project, the French government has given the go-ahead to this venture. According to France's minister of ecology and energy, Ségolène Royal, the tender for this project is already issued under the "Positive Energy" initiative and the test for the solar panels will begin by this spring.The photo voltaic solar panels called "Wattway" which will be used in the project are jointly developed by the French infrastructure firm "Colas" and the National Institute for Solar Energy. The specialty of "Wattway" is that its very sturdy and can let heavy trucks pass over it, also offering a good grip to avoid an accident. Interestingly, this project will not remove road surfaces but instead, the solar panels will be glued to the existing pavement.
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France To Pave 1000km of Road With Solar Panels

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  • by kamapuaa ( 555446 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @06:58PM (#51410761) Homepage

    So basically the plan is to cover the pavement with glass, that will need to stay clean to let the sunlight through. I see no possible problem with any of this.

    • Also, there can't be any traffic on the road because vehicles will block the sunlight, greatly reducing the amount of electricity generated.

      What a wonderful idea.

      • Yeah really, they should give the road a piezoelectric surface. Put the solar on the shoulder.

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          I assume that's a joke.

          It's one of the "solar freaking roadways" peoples' concepts that makes me sigh out loud, even though I actually think that the concept of solar paving warrants further research. Having roads have "give" and generating power from that is like making cars constantly have to drive uphill. You're just stealing energy from the cars. Very inefficiently.

          • by orlanz ( 882574 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @09:37PM (#51411381)

            We could put it on all downhills in a certain grade range. Steal power from the brakes.

            Also local roads with traffic that burn gas inefficiently should be ok too. They don't run the engine efficiently so stealing some excess power should be ok.

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        The vehicle-covered to not covered duty cycle on a rural highway is pretty high.

        • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @07:46PM (#51410973)

          The vehicle-covered to not covered duty cycle on a rural highway is pretty high.

          The duty cycle on rooftops is a lot better, plus there are no trucks driving over them there. I could see looking for alternatives once all the rooftops are full, but they are less than 1% covered so far. Ségolène Royal [wikipedia.org] has a long history of advocating crazy policies with little thought about how to pay for them.

          • by jblues ( 1703158 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @08:02PM (#51411061)

            The duty cycle on rooftops is a lot better, plus there are no trucks driving over them there.

            Trucks are constantly driving over my roof, you insensitive clod. I'm one of the last surviving trolls, and live under a (now solar paved) bridge.

          • by geoskd ( 321194 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @11:16PM (#51411805)

            The duty cycle on rooftops is a lot better

            True but with rooftop, you pretty much need one inverter per rooftop, which adds substantial amounts to the cost. With these paved roadways, you could probably get the equivalent of 10-20 rooftops with only one inverter, thus significantly reducing the cost of installation. Plus, under most circumstances, installers wont fall off the roadway, thus creating a *very* expensive insurance liability. The cost of liability insurance is a very large (~20%) part of the cost a given rooftop solar installation. Playing around on roofs tends to kill and maim people with rather frightening frequency.

          • by zieroh ( 307208 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @11:45PM (#51411871)

            The duty cycle on rooftops is a lot better, plus there are no trucks driving over them there.

            There are a lot of naysayers here worked up about the potential for cars to block the sunlight. To which I say So What? It's an experiment. Someone is trying a different approach to solar, and that's actually a good thing. While I can think of potential drawbacks to this approach, I can also think of quite a few potential advantages. The exact ratio of disadvantages to advantages is the important part here. Pointing out the obvious -- that cars will occasionally block some of the light -- doesn't serve any useful function.

            Again, it's an experiment. Accept that you might not actually know everything.

            • by rhazz ( 2853871 )
              1,000 KM of solar panels to provide power for 5 million people does not sound like an experiment. It sounds more like a huge infrastructure investment using a technology that currently has only been implemented at a length of 100 meters on a pedestrian/cyclist pathway, and that implementation was done by a completely different company with a different product. Surely just a few kilometers would be more appropriate for an experiment. I would hope they are implementing the project with a drawn out introductio
      • I was just going to say that we, here in LA, were going to try this on the 405, but it's always covered with cars.

        Seriously, I would imagine that this wouldn't make sense for a high-traffic freeway. But I could see it, maybe, making some sense in a rural area where people are put off by "ugly" solar collectors. Place it in the road--it may not be as efficient but it may be efficient enough to power the houses along the side of the road in a rural area.

        • Perhaps we could bring back the under carriage neon lights to keep the road illuminated - makes it work at night too!

        • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @07:42PM (#51410951) Homepage

          Even in heavy traffic, the overwhelming majority of the road [google.is] is exposed. And yes, that's the 405, in a high traffic area.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            But why roads? Of all the places we could put solar panels, why roads? I mean, I just can't comprehend how this is even a proposal in the first place. I haven't been able to since the first time I heard about the idea, and I still can't. There are too many things that can go wrong, too much engineering involved. It's like a Rube Goldberg machine. The solar panels are better on my roof and in my backyard. If we want solar power from roads, then why not just mount the panels on poles along the roadway?

            • Why roads? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @10:05PM (#51411497) Homepage Journal

              Okay, first up: I analyzed the 'Solar Freaking Roadways!!!' proposals so I know the arguments, though I think they glossed over or ignored numerous problems. My end thought was that it might be a neat system for a pedestrian walk area, where you don't have anything bigger than a golf cart traversing it.

              That being said, I'm always willing to be proven wrong - it's relatively easy to get me to agree to a 100m/1km/1 Mile or so 'test strip'. 100m, for example, is long enough to get a truck completely onto the solar surface and drive for a bit - because the interface might be a destruction point. Something to study, obviously.

              Okay, the reasoning for 'solar roads' is a combination of displacement and synchronicity. By displacement, we mean that the surface of a properly constructed solar panel displaces other construction material - pavement, for a road. For something like a 'solar car park', solar panels are strong enough to replace the roof, not supplement it.
              - Problem: Pavement is relatively incredibly cheap and durable.
              Synchronicity: By this I mean that the substitution provides additional benefits. Solar roadways, for example, boasts that you could incorporate heating elements into their units such that when it snows you can avoid the need for plowing by melting the snow off the roads, then recoup the heat used via the solar panels. Problem - I don't think they've thought about heavy snows and that you get less light in winter.
              Another 'benefit' would be using LED lighting to enable 'remapping' the control lanes on a road, signaling when it's safe to pass, etc...
              They even said that the solar roads would be easier to repair - have a busted hexagonal panel? Pull up with a truck that has a robot arm that automatically unbolts and lifts the damaged panel and locks a replacement in. Each panel is supposed to be cheap because it's made in an automated factory.

              As such, using the panels as 'roadway shade/shelter' such that things like rain and snow don't reach the road at all, and probably even block direct sun, is a much better use.

        • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @07:49PM (#51410981)

          I was just going to say that we, here in LA, were going to try this on the 405, but it's always covered with cars.

          Here in San Jose, we have solar panels over many parking lots. They generate electricity while providing shade for the cars.

        • by currently_awake ( 1248758 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @07:52PM (#51410991)
          On most highways the cars only cover about 20% of the pavement. Unfortunately that's as good as this idea gets. It only makes sense to put solar panels where the cost of the panel is less than the value of the electricity, and roads isn't one of those places (armoured glass is expensive, they get scratched and dirty). Better places: a roof over the road (massive reduction in snow/ice removal costs, you can use cheap solar panels), on house roofs (you can use cheap solar panels), deserts (cheap land, lots of sun, cheap panels).
        • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi@noSpaM.smokingcube.be> on Sunday January 31, 2016 @09:00PM (#51411269) Homepage

          The problem with putting regular panels next to the road is space especially in rural areas where the roads are often already cutting through previous private lands captured by the government. Capturing more land for use by city slickers' energy production (smart farmers will often already have solar panels) will not go over well and may be more expensive in buyouts and legal issues than developing brand new technology.

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        Many roads now have solar powered signs. The solar panels are placed up at the height of a truck container, so there's not likely to be much light lost.

      • We are taking about "highways" not about roads in a street. On a highway you have a about 1 car every 100meter, or less. I usually drive km's on french highways without even seeing a car.

    • by Kunedog ( 1033226 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @07:16PM (#51410851)
      There was a successful kickstarter for something similar, which IMO gets ripped to shreds in this video:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      If you love solar panels, then why not put them, well, anywhere else instead of on a road surface where they will be under constant, severe assault by heavy vehicles with tires that can leave light-blocking rubber on them.

      Doing this would be expensive and ineffective, if not impossible. It seems good for nothing but a scam to bilk investors or as another vacuous Green PR campaign.
      • by jonwil ( 467024 )

        Dave Jones over at the EEVBlog has a great video as to why solar roadways are crap https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Jones has already been thoroughly debunked. His numbers are right but he completely misses the point of doing this. The ones he was looking at were development projects intended to demonstrate the viability of the technology, not to be financially beneficial from day one. In that light the Dutch solar cycleway has been a huge success.

          Sadly this is often the case with YouTube videos. People like Jones rush to get them out and cash in, without bothering to understand what the people behind the idea are actual

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @07:36PM (#51410931) Homepage

      Meh, there's a solar bike path [google.is] in the Netherlands and they don't seem to have excessive problems with dirt. Because rain exists. They got significantly higher generation than they were expecting - only about 1/3rd less than what you'd expect from rooftop mounted panels.

      I too have criticisms of the "Solar Freaking Roadways", but let's start with common criticisms that aren't well grounded:

      1) They'll scratch up: first off scratches can reduce light transmission but solar panels don't require good "optical quality", only transmission; the light is free to scatter on its way in. It's the same thing that applies to greenhouses - you may have noticed that many greenhouses use "fogged" plastic that you can't see through, yet still lets the vast majority of the light in (in that case, the scattering is actually seen as advantageous). Beyond that, in the case of roadways, I'd think it a given that they'd coat them with a an anti-scratch coat (aka harder than Mohs 7 / quartz sand, the hardest common natural material))

      2) Traction: Traction glass exists - it's just surface texturing. They use it for semi-transparent flooring, it's nothing special.

      3) "Glass would break and then shred tires": It's easy to make glass bear purely compressive loads (solid objects on both sides of it) without fracture - that's what it's best at. It's shear and tensile loads that glass is bad at, but these aren't applicable when it's flat on a hard surface. And lamination, like in windshields, prevents dangerous shards from coming off in the event of a fracture. This is not an actual limitation.

      3) Shadowing: Go to Google Maps satellite view and look up random roads. The overwhelming majority of road surface is completely unshadowed at any point in time. Even in-city roads are overwhelmingly unshadowed. Shadows are practically irrelevant in the countryside except in wooded areas.

      4) Costs: The costs of the materials for a road are a minority of the costs of the project, and continue to be a minority of the cost of the project under any realistic pricing for large-scale production of paving panels. A key driver for affordability, however, would be scale: this means large scale production (so road panels are similarly priced to rooftop panels plus the extra glass costs) and continuous paving systems. Anything smaller scale would have elevated costs.

      5) "They'd be better on roofs": the main problem with roof installations is there is no way to do mass-scale continuous install (the sort of possibility that paving gives). Each roof has to be handled on its own, with its own engineering issues, with its own project overhead, its own inverters, etc. The key issue to cost reduction these days is getting rid of the overhead; panel production costs themselves have gotten quite low and keep going down. Furthermore, with a road you get "two birds with one stone" - a driving surface and a power generation surface built at the same time in the same space, sharing the same project overhead. It's fine to sacrifice some panel efficiency to glass, shadows, dirt, etc if it reduces your overhead costs.

      All of this is not to say that I think they're inherently some sort of great idea that we should dump billions of USD into right this moment I simply think that they do deserve more development and testing, and I have issues with some of the criticisms that have been levied. On the other hand, I do have some issues with the "solar freakin' roadways" people. Number one on my list is the snow-melting concept. It takes five minutes to run the numbers on that and find that it takes way more energy than could ever be considered reasonable. You could melt thin layers of frost off the surface, but nothing of any relevant mass.

      If one wants to pursue an anti-snow approach, my personal alternative is having an air bl

      • by oic0 ( 1864384 )
        What about the fact that as they wear, the surface texture is gone and they do indeed become slick as glass, especially in the rain. Need some sort of resurfacing technique.
        • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @08:10PM (#51411091) Homepage

          Like how hold concrete becomes slippery? Yep, just like with concrete, you need to resurface. But one expects them to use anti-scratch coatings, which would significantly reduce the rate of wear. The aggregate in typical concrete can be up to Mohs 7, but the cement is only Mohs 2-5. Raw unprotected glass is Mohs 5-6,5, but scratch resistant coatings can raise it to over 7 to avoid being scratched by quartz sand.

          • Yep, just like with concrete, you need to resurface.

            No worries, that can just use those pavement milling [wikipedia.org] machines - oh wait...

            • by Rei ( 128717 )

              Unfortunately, as we know, there's absolutely no ways known to man to texture glass that could be fitted onto a truck.

      • Even with "shadowing" it's not like the shadows are areas of complete darkness without photons.
      • by Elfich47 ( 703900 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @08:35PM (#51411183)
        Any given winter will have 50-100 freeze thaw cycles. Once you suggested air blower fails all of the nooks and crannies will get filled with snow and then the freeze/melt expansion/contraction cycle of water will destroy the piece of equipment. I have yet to see a piece of equipment that can stand up to repeated freeze/thaw cycles from a New England winter.

        Next up: Snow plows and everything the snow plow pushes in-front of it. A snow plow lumbering along at 20 miles per hour can clear a path 15' wide and a foot deep (often more if it is the truck at the end of plow gang). Any odd ball things in the path of the plow get thrown aside - car parts, baby carriages, clothing, building supplies, will all be thrown aside.

        Any portion of the solar panel that doesn't give a clean path to the plow will be destroyed. Any thing dragged along by the snow plow will leave tracks until it is thrown away. "Textured" glass designed to give better traction will get chewed on by the snow plows. If the snow plows leave chips, cracks or divots in the glass: the freeze/thaw cycle of water will attack those imperfections and widen them over the course of a winter.

        Until someone demonstrated the ability of those things to survive several seasons of snow plows and freeze/thaw cycles I don't expect to see them where I live. Roadways are designed to be robust and not need a lot of maintenance (exceptions for specific specialty items are to be expected- bridges and tunnels come to mind).
      • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @10:08PM (#51411515) Homepage

        A bike lane is nothing like a 50 ton truck in an emergency stop. Asphalt is extremely simple and can't be damaged in any meaningful way. Texturing and coating wears off, asphalt just wears down and if you're going to provide lots of traction as you must then there will be lots of wear. And you can't just make the wear layer thicker without reducing the optical properties. And if the foundation isn't rock solid these slabs are going to start wobbling and crack up like driving over giant tiles. And you can't rally patch a hole with a bit of cheap asphalt, the whole tile must out and be replaced. Cost is the big killer, it's why we don't use more solar today it's not like we covered everything else in solar panels and roads are our last resort. So they produce 1/3rd less energy, involve a ton of tempered, textured, laminated glass encased in concrete with high maintenance and low robustness. Where can I sign up?

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          The surface will be much harder than asphalt, and even when it does eventually wear it should be easier to replace as you just lift off the old slab and put a new one down.

          In fact some places have been doing that for many decades with concrete slabs and later asphalt slabs. The problem is that the joints are never that smooth and end up being noisy, which is why it tends to be limited to roads far from where people live.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by PopeRatzo ( 965947 )

        Why would you want to spoil a perfectly good Slashdot comment anti-renewable energy freakout by introducing facts?

        People here would rather talk about practical technology like a manned mission to Phobos. Solar energy is just a fantasy that can't possibly ever work.

      • 1) They'll scratch up: first off scratches can reduce light transmission but solar panels don't require good "optical quality", only transmission; the light is free to scatter on its way in. It's the same thing that applies to greenhouses - you may have noticed that many greenhouses use "fogged" plastic that you can't see through, yet still lets the vast majority of the light in (in that case, the scattering is actually seen as advantageous). Beyond that, in the case of roadways, I'd think it a given that they'd coat them with a an anti-scratch coat (aka harder than Mohs 7 / quartz sand, the hardest common natural material))

        2) Traction: Traction glass exists - it's just surface texturing. They use it for semi-transparent flooring, it's nothing special.

        A thin flat clean surface is the most efficient cover for the cells. Any deviation will decrease the efficiency. You are suggesting a rough thick 'milky' material with scratches on it. It will scatter a lot of the light away from the cells. Greenhouses are not a good counterexample as they are not built for *maximum* throughput, just for one that delivers a stable 90F atmosphere inside.

        3) "Glass would break and then shred tires": It's easy to make glass bear purely compressive loads (solid objects on both sides of it) without fracture - that's what it's best at. It's shear and tensile loads that glass is bad at, but these aren't applicable when it's flat on a hard surface. And lamination, like in windshields, prevents dangerous shards from coming off in the event of a fracture. This is not an actual limitation.

        But the glass will not bear purely compressive loads. There will be impact forces of heavy objects falling on it at high s

    • It's a good thing that this has been tested before they asked you.

      http://thinkprogress.org/clima... [thinkprogress.org]

    • So basically the plan is to cover the pavement with glass, ...

      Sounds like *bunches* of fun in rain, sleet, snow, and ice. Guess they don't have studded tires in France :-)

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      You'd think that the engineers designing this system would have thought of that, but apparently they aren't as smart as us random people on Slashdot are.

    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      I see no possible problem with any of this.

      I don't either. Either this road proves workable, in which case the world now has access to a new, proven technology -- or it turns out not to be workable, in which case the technology is a failure but all the costs will be paid by the French.

      It's not quite win/win, but at least it's win/neutral.

  • tl;dr (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 31, 2016 @06:58PM (#51410763)

    RRV #632 [youtube.com] for the tech. For the political sorts, this is what happens when you have a stupid EU policy requiring the state to pay private companies to build infrastructure rather than employing their own talent.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Barny ( 103770 )

      Heh, I came here to post exactly this. Dave tends to only call bullshit on things that merit it, and as an electronics engineer this is his bread and butter.

      • by maxrate ( 886773 )
        he's an electrical engineer - not a materials scientist or infrastructure/civil engineer. The solar component is only a fraction of the overall product/project.
  • I wonder how the panels will reflect light. I could see motorists being blinded should the surface reflect significantly. Affixing panels with glue on the existing surface seems interesting in terms of how things might be maintained. Overall the solar roadway is an interesting concept.
    • ... should the surface reflect significantly more than a current roadway does. There's a non-trivial amount of glare that comes from existing road materials, the question is whether this surface has *more* reflection than that...

  • Why not a roof? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @07:06PM (#51410793)

    Wouldn't it be more effective to build a "solar roof" over the highway, shading motorists during the hottest parts of the day, angling the panels to maximize insolation at the latitude, and for f's sake: not having to make them sturdy enough and grippy enough to safely drive trucks on them?

    How long will this roadway last, and what will be the replacement cost? I mean, if this miracle surface can stop potholes from forming, then, yeah, let's put it everywhere, but I'm not feeling like that is the case.

    • That was my first reaction as well, but a roof structure would run about $4-5/watt for the system, with panels about 35% of the cost.

      Assuming the roadway is about half the efficiency at peak output, cars traveling at 60mph and keeping 6 car lengths minimum between themselves, twice the cell cost but no superstructure... Your installed cost per watt is 70%, with a 15% performance penalty, or a pro-rata $3.3/W.

      Granted upkeep will be higher, and life likely lower, but might actually work.

    • You know how strong you would have to build the superstructure to withstand wind and snow? If these can be used, and make it easy as replacing a tile to "fill a pothole", anyone who's ever needed a wheel alignment or a new rim after hitting one will be grateful.
  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dereck1701 ( 1922824 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @07:07PM (#51410803)

    I can't really see the reasoning behind this, it would be far easier, more efficient, quicker and cost effective to put panels along the roadsides, next to substations on the sides of buildings, on roofs, or practically anywhere but on roads. Until they can lay solar panels like they do pavement for virtually the same cost as pavement there really isn't much point when there are SOOOOOOO many other viable locations.

    • Exactly what I was going to say. The "Carbon Footprint" of a solar road way is going to be enormous!! Maintenance, initial design, and not to mention the other things brought up, need to be strong to carry vehicles, and grippy. People do not realize that glass reacts to sun and actually become brittle. Just Glad it is France and not somewhere in Canada!!
    • and yes, that is silly, but it's also one of the major things holding up renewables right now. If you're not into technology then it bugs you to see it. They do the same thing with shopping plazas where they hide them from view so the bored housewives who shop there don't have to look at them.
    • "I can't really see the reasoning behind this, it would be far easier, more efficient, quicker and cost effective to put panels along the roadsides, "

      Needs permits since it's above ground, hides the views of rich people and gives everybody living there a right to object, on the roads they can do whatever they want. 1 owner, no permits.

      "Until they can lay solar panels like they do pavement for virtually the same cost as pavement ..."

      You mean waiting until the money making pavements is as cheap as the dead no

  • Thanks France (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @07:08PM (#51410807)

    I don't think this will work, but I hope it does. I'm glad the French are paying to find out instead of us.

    I suspect the initial cost (or yearly amortization of that cost) and ongoing maintenance of the solar panels will be higher than the value of the generated power.

    • It's not like ordinary roads don't need maintenance. So as long as the initial cost + maintenance is less than the value of the electricity generated + the cost of maintaining an ordinary road, you come out ahead.
  • 1000km? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @07:08PM (#51410809)

    Wow... 1000km is a pretty hefty pilot program. And here's the important phrase:

    This project will supply 5 million people in France with electricity if it is successful

    So... 1000km and they have no idea if it's going to be successful? It seems like the reasonable thing to do would be to pave a few km of road and see how it holds up under real conditions for a few years. But hey, money is no object when you're saving the planet, right? Well, I'm glad it's their tax dollars that are doing a giant feasibility study for the rest of us.

    The Dutch have the right idea. They've started with a 100m strip to start with to see if the things actually work as intended first. I like the concept, but new products and concepts like this need to be tested pretty carefully.

  • For a lower price... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cirby ( 2599 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @07:09PM (#51410815)

    Build 1000 km of above-the-road arrays.

    They wouldn't have to ruggedize the panels to let cars drive on them, they could angle them for better efficiency, and they could repair most of the things that will go wrong without having to shut down the roads.

    For that matter, they could BUILD the damned thing without shutting down the roads.

    • The panels would still have to be rugged, and their support structure would have to be able to resist winds, snow, and impacts of cars on the support pillars. Those open fields next to highways save a lot of lives - your idea would kill people.
      • build the structure over the entire median, more panels, and keep the middle free in case of an accident.
  • Designed For Failure (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    France is a leader in nuclear energies.
    Launching a large scale "green energy" project that everyone knows will be a giant trainwreck and maintenance nightmare will destroy confidence in renewables and protect Areva's business for decades.

    I'm being a bit of a conspiracy nutjob, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was true either.

    • I see that you are anti-nuke. Are you pro-coal, or do you think that natural gas will stay cheap forever?

  • by Idou ( 572394 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @07:34PM (#51410927) Journal
    Seriously, of all the things to be bitching about in the world, this project seems like it should be low on the list, yet /.ers are foaming at the mouths by the look of the top comments right now. Even if this project is destined to failure, do you actually believe humanity will never, ever be able to capture solar energy from roads? Well, if you admit it might be possible one day, then guess what? It is going to take projects like this one failing to eventually get there (or did you think technological progress hatches like a magic egg if you wait long enough?).

    A project like this is NOTHING compared to the money spent on fusion so far. Is it actually any more of a long shot than fusion? Seems like people who have trouble prioritizing their bitching list should not be so critical of how others are prioritizing their long shot energy projects. Besides, this has nothing to do with the project, and you are just blowing off steam because it is Sunday, and you couldn't get a date on Saturday night, AGAIN, right?

    If only people could get rich off of pissing all over someone else's idea. . . /.ers could finally move out of their parents' basements and stop being such bitter a-holes. . .
  • by Fencepost ( 107992 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @07:52PM (#51410997) Journal
    This is at least the third variation of this I've heard of - there's the Kickstarted solar roadways thing mentioned here, there's this one, and there was an earlier one that proposed larger drop-in units that were basically pre-fabricated road surface blocks with a clear (enough) top, internal electronics (including lighting) and connections out either off the road or possibly through adjacent units for power delivery.

    The various arguments when those were initially proposed included that road surfaces and significant chunks of parking lots (the aisles, not the parking spaces themselves) are empty 90+% of the time (true), it's surfaces that are already not natural so there are no objections of "you're covering that beautiful field with solar panels," and by using pre-fabricated units you might be able to actually put in road surface at a comparable cost in labor.

    I know my initial reaction at that time was that the concept wasn't terrible - it addressed real problems. The technology might not have been there, and still might not be there, but for some carefully chosen situations they might be a viable option. The biggest obstacle that I could see is that something like that would likely need some pretty tight tolerances in the installed environment, and "road bed" and tight tolerances don't always go together so well (see "alligator cracking").

    Also, regarding the criticisms that it would cost far too much to cover all the roads in the USA, just how much electricity are you expecting to consume? I feel sure that on average houses with solar have less solar panel surface area than they have driveway area and a lot of them are (hoping to) produce more power than they need for their house. Covering all roads wouldn't be necessary, most likely even covering all suitable roads wouldn't be necessary.

    And regarding France doing a large experiment with this, is it a 1000km stretch or is it multiple locations in differing road conditions, up to a total of 1000km of test plots?
  • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @07:52PM (#51411001) Journal

    I suspect that even if there is some doubt if this project will be successful the lessons learned from doing it and operating it will provide enough operational experience so that the next effort will have fewer failures.

    By doing it you learn what problems have to be overcome.

  • This [wattwaybycolas.com] seems to be the official site of the manufacturer.

    I don't know if it's just propaganda or real facts, but they seem to have taken into account all the shortcomings and engineered around them

  • by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @08:36PM (#51411187) Homepage

    Anything that drives up demand for solar panels should result in a ramp up in supply and a drop in price so I can get my home solar installation more quickly.

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @11:00PM (#51411749)

    Kroger Markets has solar-paved one of its huge Fry's Marketplace parking lots in Phoenix (I-17 at Bell Rd). But unlike Royale's daffy scheme, they have done it the right way, by using the solar panels to shade the cars, rather than having them in the pavement. Covered parking is precious in Phoenix, and a perk generally reserved for neurosurgeons.

    • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @11:30PM (#51411851) Homepage Journal

      If I lived in Arizona, Heck, any of the Southern states, I'd consider covered parking a perk worth perhaps paying a touch more in the store for. Plus, from a business standpoint there's a lot to be said for such an install.
      1. If I phrase it as the carport structure as not being a carport, but as necessary support structure to get the solar panels safely over the cars, I can deduct and get credits for my carport as part of the solar install.
      2. There's various credits and deductions with said install.
      3. The power provided helps lower my max energy usage - companies are billed not only by total power used, but by maximum wattage. IE it's cheaper for me to use 100 watts continuously than 2400 watts for 1 hour a day. The daytime power from the panels will reduce the increase in power usage during business hours. Set my AC systems up to 'supercool' during that time frame to keep the temperature good once the sun comes down until my power starts dropping.
      4. As you mention, car ports in heavily lit areas down south is a perk. I can attract a 'higher class' of customers that way.
      5. For that matter, it saves energy in cooling costs. People burn less gasoline running the AC for their cars, especially with remote starters and such. Raised solar panels(and a few inches is sufficient) can act as a sun screen for your building, substantially dropping AC energy requirements, to the point that I remember some buildings having non-solar screens way back in the day. The energy gained from solar energy is a economic boost in such a case.

  • by lorinc ( 2470890 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @04:05AM (#51412459) Homepage Journal

    If you're not French and don't know Royale, you may believe this. Otherwise, you know it's just crappy PR from one of the most mediocre politician France ever had. Don't get excited by this, it's just one of her usual "big words, big failure" things.

To thine own self be true. (If not that, at least make some money.)

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