The world’s first solar road has officially crumbled less than three years since the road opened, it’s become cracked and damaged. Parts of the road have been demolished because they weren’t salvageable.
In December 2016, when the trial road was unveiled, the French Ministry of the Environment called it “unprecedented” as the road made of photovoltaic panels that would generate electricity to power streetlights in Tourouvre, a local town.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The engineers also didn’t take into account the effects of leaves, which caused damage and limited the amount of electricity the panels could produce. They also didn’t think about the pressure and weight from tractors.