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Calgary to See Solar Roadway Test

Calgary will be one test site for a French company that has set out to prove the viability of roadways that double as photovoltaic solar generators.

“We wanted to find a second life for a road,” said Philippe Harelle, chief technology officer at Colas SA’s Wattway unit, owned by the French engineering group Bouygues. “Solar farms use land that could otherwise be for agriculture, while the roads are free.”

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Bloomberg reports that Wattway’s rugged, multi-layer solar panels can withstand the weight of an 18-wheeler truck. Calgary, along with a site in the U.S. state of Georgia, are among 100 outdoor test sites now being built on the way to a planned commercial rollout in early 2018.

The 2,800 square meters of solar panels already installed at Tourouvre, in Normandy, “are expected to generate enough [electricity] to power all the public lighting in a town of 5,000 for a year, according to the company.” A square meter of Wattway’s solar road costs more than US$2,000, with data collection included. The company says its price will be “competitive with traditional solar farms by 2020.”

The French company isn’t the only one pushing for innovative solar siting, Bloomberg notes. Alongside Tesla Energy, which unveiled roof shingles last month that double as solar panels, other companies are integrating photovoltaics into building facades, while “Wattway joins Sweden’s Scania and Solar Roadways in the U.S. seeking to integrate panels onto pavement.” A section of the United States’ famed Route 66 in Missouri is also slated for solar panels.