Wattway: World's First Solar Road Fails, Drowning France's 5 Million Green Venture

Science

With the catastrophic effects of global warming causing floods and droughts in all parts of India, out of -the box green innovation is the need of the hour. But sadly one such brave attempt by France seems to have failed.

Written By Suchitra Karthikeyan | Mumbai | Updated On:
Photo: Reuters

With the catastrophic effects of global warming causing floods and droughts in all parts of India, out of -the box green innovation is the need of the hour. But sadly one such brave attempt by France seems to have failed.

In an innovative attempt to harness the sun's limitless energy, France had embarked on an ambitious solar project in 2016 - Wattway - World's first solar road i.e. installing photovoltaic cells on roads as cars cruise on them. 

Recent reports from French newspaper Le Monde, suggests that this project which cost the French government approximately 5 million euros has failed to achieve its goals.

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What is Wattway?

According to its official website, Wattway is the world's first-ever photovoltaic road surface which was implemented as a joint venture between Transport company Colas and French National Institute for Solar Energy.

As a part of the project,  2,800 photovoltaic panels were installed on a 1-kilometer patch of road in the French town Tourouvre-au-Perch in Normandy. During its installation, Colas had reportedly claimed that the solar panels were covered with a resin containing silicon and had the capacity to bear the load of even 18-wheelers.

According to Wattway's official website, Wattway pavement provides clean, renewable energy in the form of electricity, while allowing for all types of traffic.

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Why did Wattway fail?

International news reports claim that shoddy engineering of the Wattway has resulted in it not able to meet its goal of producing 150,000 kWh a year, which was supposed to power 5000 households. Reports claim that Wattway was barely able to meet its solar output by producing just under 80,000 KWh in 2018, and fewer than 40,000 KWh by July 2019.

Apart from its low energy output, local reports claim that driving over the solar road using tractors creates such loud noise that locals are required to limit their vehicle's speed to 70 km/h. 

The main reason for Wattway's failure has been revealed as its location choice. Normandy is not a sunny area. News reports state that Normandy's capital city of Caen only got 44 days of strong sunshine a year, which has remained as the trend. Storms too have wreaked havoc with the systems, blowing circuits. Reports also claim that the panels weren't built to capture sunlight efficiently as all the panels were flat and which limited the limited sun of the region.
   

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