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France unveils the world’s first (and probably last) solar panel road

December 23, 2016

By Paul Homewood





Tallbloke has this story about a solar panel road, which had me reaching for the calendar to check it was not April 1st!


Five million Euros to power a few street lights sounds expensive. What effect traffic has on the panels remains to be seen, but dirt could be an issue.

A solar panel road, claimed to be the world’s first, has opened in France, reports the Daily Mail Online:



The 0.6 miles (1km) stretch of road in the small Normandy village of Tourouvre-au-Perche is paved with 2,880 solar panels, which convert energy from the sun into electricity. It is hoped that the the road could eventually provide enough energy to power the small village’s street lights.

The ‘Wattway’ road features 2,800 sq m (9,186 sq ft) of panels and was showcased today at an inauguration ceremony attended by French minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Ségolène Royal.

The road is expected to produce 280 MWh of electricity a year.

While the daily production will fluctuate according to weather and seasons, it is expected to reach 767 kWh per day, with peaks up to 1,500 kWh per day in summer.

Some 2,000 motorists will use the RD5 road every day during a two-year test period.

During that time, assessments will be made as to whether the road is capable of generating enough power to run the village’s street lights. Tourouvre-au-Perchef is home to around 3,400 residents.

The project is said to have cost €5m (£4.2m/$5.1) and was financed by the French government.

A solar panel road, claimed to be the world's first, has opened in France. The 1km (0.6-mile) stretch of road in the small Normandy village of Tourouvre-au-Perche is paved with 2,880 photovoltaic panels

A solar panel road, claimed to be the world’s first, has opened in France. The 1km (0.6-mile) stretch of road in the small Normandy village of Tourouvre-au-Perche is paved with 2,880 photovoltaic panels


There are a number of problems with this project, not least the fact that you don’t actually need street lights when the sun is shining!

And I hate to think what might happen to the panels when a car decides to pull off to the side of the road.

But let’s actually look more closely at the numbers.

If we assume a market price of £50/MWh, the output of (maybe) 280 MWh a year is worth £14000. Even ignoring maintenance and interest costs, the cost of £4.2 million would have a payback period of 300 years!


Historians will look back at this strange episode in human history, and compare some of the things we are wasting money on with Nero’s follies.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    December 23, 2016 11:04 am

    €5m / £4.2m for 1km – chickenfeed.

    How about €3m / £2.4m for 0.07km?

    “Krommenie’s cycle path promises to become even more useful: on 12 November a 70-metre stretch will become the world’s first public road with embedded solar panels.

    Costing around €3m (£2.4m) and funded mostly by the local authority, the road is made up of rows of crystalline silicon solar cells, encased within concrete and covered with a translucent layer of tempered glass.

    A non-adhesive finish and a slight tilt are meant to help the rain wash off dirt and thus keep the surface clean, guaranteeing maximum exposure to sunlight.

    Since the path cannot be adjusted to the position of the sun, the panels produce roughly 30% less energy than those fixed on to roofs. Nonetheless, when the path is extended to 100 metres in 2016, its creators hope that it will produce enough energy to power three households.”

    Despite the gushing Graun report that it was planned to be extended by 30m in 2016, there seems to be a dearth of reporting on that particular event.

    Gotta love CleanTechnica’s report & image used to report the original scheme.

    Alert readers may spot the drawback of the popular scheme.

  2. December 23, 2016 11:13 am

    When you have a Ministry for “Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy”, you can be certain that energy will come a long way down the list of priorities. Of course there is no way the road is “sustainable” by the standard definition of the term, but in the Alice in Wonderland world of politicians, “sustainable” means what ever they want it to mean. The asylum continues to function at peak madness.

  3. Max Sawyer permalink
    December 23, 2016 11:14 am

    The project is said to have cost €5m (£4.2m/$5.1) and was financed by the French government.

    = financed by the French taxpayer.

    • NeilC permalink
      December 23, 2016 11:58 am

      Exactly. Just like the BBC keep saying about EU funded projects in the UK. No it isn’t EU funded. They are paid for out of UK tax payers pockets given to the EU, we are a net contributer to the EU.

      • January 15, 2017 8:06 am

        Our money given to the EU of which 50% disappears!

  4. Bloke down the pub permalink
    December 23, 2016 11:30 am

    Slippery when wet?

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      December 23, 2016 11:59 am

      Slippery enough when dry. Differential traction between the asphalt on one side of the road and the glass surface on the other is also liable to cause interesting driving conditions. Ass those who have driven in France will know, country roads often have warning signs like this:

      “Verglas” is black ice. Now they will need to change the wording to “Panneaux Solaires”

      I hope they are well insured for the added accident risk.

  5. December 23, 2016 11:38 am

    When someone changes a tire on the side of the road…?

  6. December 23, 2016 11:42 am

    Add “solar”, “wind”, “renewable” or “sustainable” to your product description and some bureaucrat will fall for it.

  7. Hivemind permalink
    December 23, 2016 11:46 am

    So it isn’t actually a solar road, more a solar bike path ?

  8. Powerful Pierre permalink
    December 23, 2016 12:10 pm

    Unbelievable how bureaucrats spend taxpayers hard earned money isn’t it, and stupid and unintelligent doesn’t begin to describe it.

  9. It doesn't add up... permalink
    December 23, 2016 12:12 pm

    The ambition of these people (from le FIgaro):

    Surtout, l’entreprise espère conquérir des marchés à l’étranger, et notamment en Afrique. Comme le précise Jean-Louis Bal, «si cette route solaire tient ses promesses, le continent africain sera évidement un marché d’avenir. 600 millions de personnes ne disposent pas d’électricité, alors que l’Afrique connait un fort taux d’ensoleillement.»

    Paving Africa at €5m/km to provide electricity: I think they’ve heard of the UK aid budget seeking something to spend on.

  10. Joe Public permalink
    December 23, 2016 1:57 pm

    French Wattway Solar Roadways BUSTED! – nice video ….

    • December 24, 2016 2:39 pm

      Nice vid but I lost alot of respect for the guy when he promoted the false narrative about the Clockmed 9/11 bomb hoax. The only reason he’s critical of solar roads is because he thinks he should be receiving higher subsidies for his rooftop array.

  11. Gerry, England permalink
    December 23, 2016 2:06 pm

    What can you say? Beyond stupid.

  12. A C Osborn permalink
    December 23, 2016 2:59 pm

    Have they figured out that when Cars are actually using it they will create Shadows, thus no generation, so they will be lucky to get even 30% of normally mounted panels and that is before all the degredation due to dirt from Tyre Treads, dust, Tyre marks, Oil film, exhaust soot and surface abrasion.

  13. December 23, 2016 4:07 pm

    If you look at the Reuters photo above, they would do a lot better to put the panels in the field at the side of the road. They could then be tilted in the direction of maximum sunlight as per rooftop solar panels and would not be liable to damage or dirt from vehicles.

    Also if the panels did need some cleaning or other maintenance, they wouldn’t need to stop the traffic to do it.

  14. 1saveenergy permalink
    December 23, 2016 4:13 pm

    Remember when the french were going to power the Eiffel Tower with wind turbines for the Paris COP meeting ….any one know the final cost/output/payback ???

  15. KevinK permalink
    December 23, 2016 4:36 pm

    I wonder how they will hold up to German Tanks ????

  16. mikewaite permalink
    December 23, 2016 6:09 pm

    Why so negative?
    If it works and supplies the local village (that has paid for it) then there is less incentive for the local commune to plaster their countryside with wind turbines .
    So far as I can see these panels will kill no birds ,(those that have not been hunted to extinction by the villagers ) , will produce no ultrasound hum , nor any disturbing flickering optical effects , – and they look quite neat.
    The only disadvantage may be , as pointed out above , to steering if greasy , and the low cost efficiency in terms of energy / euro .However since the latter is not borne by any of us, but by the villagers themselves , just think of it as an interesting experiment .

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      December 23, 2016 6:47 pm

      “The project is said to have cost €5m (£4.2m/$5.1) and was financed by the French government.” So the villagers only paid a small portion, probably too much anyway.

      The Adelaide Weather Bureau is forecasting 40℃ for Christmas Day in South Australia, and there are doubts whether we will get through without blackouts thanks to the sort of people who believe this ‘road’ is a good idea.

      But have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and the same for our host Robert, and also to you readers.

    • December 23, 2016 8:37 pm

      Except that the village did not pay for it. (Or if they did they would have gotten a bill for over £1000 each)

      The French govt (ie taxpayer) paid for it.

    • December 23, 2016 8:39 pm


      Gottit? How can it produce “enough power to run the village’s street lights” when it’s dark?

  17. Stonyground permalink
    December 23, 2016 7:04 pm

    I’m struggling to think of any reason why anyone would think that this was a good idea. Solar panels are a pretty rubbish way of generating electricity anyway, expensive and intermittent. But, if you must install them, despite their shortcomings, put them on roofs, on wasteland that maybe couldn’t be used for anything else. Paving a road with the bloody things has to be one of the stupidest ideas that I have ever heard.

    • Joe Public permalink
      December 24, 2016 2:36 pm

      “I’m struggling to think of any reason why anyone would think that this was a good idea.”

      ‘Cos there’s R&D grants to be extracted from gullible taxpayers.

      And, there are over-paid civil servants to authorise those grants, and claim their 5 minutes of photo-opportunity at project handover but before performance results are analysed.

  18. Jackington permalink
    December 23, 2016 8:08 pm

    See the IET’s take on it here:

    • December 23, 2016 10:32 pm

      To say that the wattway powers a “town” would perhaps be counted an exaggeration. That the article’s second sentence used the phrase “comprises of” put me in no frame of mind to respect its opinions anyway.

      Tis a pity that the streetlights are needed when the solar panels aren’t making electricity, and that when they are, the lights aren’t needed.

      I know, I know – there’s a battery. One day, when our collective follies have sent us to join the dodo, aliens flying by will see a glimmer of light in the otherwise eternal darkness of continental European night. Then they’ll swing down and look at what they’ve found and scratch their craniums, if they have them, and wonder how such a mighty race could have perished.

    • Joe Public permalink
      December 24, 2016 11:42 am

      The IET’s credibility sank with it’s utterly, utterly, stupid click-bait headline “World’s first solar road powers French town”

      • Gerry, England permalink
        December 24, 2016 1:13 pm

        Sadly the credibility of the IET disappeared years ago, particularly the journal E and T. I keep thinking I have received a technical supplement to the Guardian such is the renewable climate change drivel in it. A year or so back they trumpeted a report from some lamebrain that air travel would suffer due to the warming of the troposphere over the Equator changing the jetstream. This would be the warm blob that had already been shown not to exist by taking measurements with balloons etc and was also one of the main tenets of the global warming myth. I came across a copy of the journal from around 2004 and was shocked at how bad it had become. There were lots of informative articles back then. Now I flick through hardly finding anything worth reading except pieces by a former Soviet and a spoof blog about a student son of an engineer.

  19. Sparks permalink
    December 23, 2016 10:43 pm

    It was probably 40 year old electricians on work experience who installed the damned panels, just like they do in the UK.

    Two faced socialism bullshit as usual…

  20. Sparks permalink
    December 23, 2016 10:50 pm

    Two faced crony socialism would be more accurate.

  21. December 23, 2016 11:01 pm

    That scheme is Hyperbole not Ecology
    .. From today’s Times
    pg 35 France opens 1Km of solar roadway costing 17 times more than the equivalent solar panels per KW.

    pg47 remaining 48m Smart Meters have to installed within target date of next 3 years.
    Yes that’s 60,000 installations per working day !

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      December 24, 2016 12:41 am

      That would take 8,000 to 10,000 installers, plus support people — doing nothing else.
      Who has the contract for the Smart Meters? (Is this an investment opportunity?)
      Is everything else ready? Is a system in place to do whatever they are supposed to do?
      While connecting another 300,000 each week?

      What could go wrong!

  22. John F. Hultquist permalink
    December 24, 2016 12:33 am

    Can someone in France visit this place on April Fools’ day and provide and update.

    I agree with Stonyground (above): “ I’m struggling to think of any reason why anyone would think that this was a good idea.

    But if they must:
    They could put selected parts of a road in a covering or semi-tube of panels. The shaded road would be protected and cooler. Proper tilting of the panels would be possible.
    Not necessarily wise, but better.

  23. Athelstan permalink
    December 24, 2016 10:19 am

    Avast there ye lubbers, we are all doomed, DOOMED I tell ye!

    Well, um………………………….. according to hyperbole telly corporation anyways, cos and I’ve told yers a billion times and more!….. they’re never people who would purposefully exaggerate – now would they?!

    Temperatures at the North Pole could be up to 20 degrees higher than average this Christmas Eve, in what scientists say is a record-breaking heatwave.

    Climate scientists say these unseasonably warm weather patterns in the Arctic region are directly linked to man-made climate change.

    Temperatures throughout November and December were 5C higher than average.

    20º ?? – in Fahrenheit? and that’s still – 6C……………..or 20F = ± 5ºC?……………………… confusing their T readings or, and apart from the lurid headline, what are we supposed to adduce from the item in general…………………

    from here Biased Broadcasting crap

    Dr Otto added that scientists are “very confident” that the weather patterns were linked to anthropogenic climate change.

    “confident” that’s so convincing and lookee shes a ‘senior researcher’ – no less.

    Nowhere but nowhere can I find specifics in this item, from what data sets, and baseline are they drawing the conclusions from and where and how the temps are measured and here, and presume they are extrapolated from ‘remote sensing’, though see how dramatic are the graphics – did jim spill the red ink again?

    “North Pole” or, “Arctic region?” make your ferkin minds up.

    This is specious bollocks dressed up as Shock Horror reportage though actually it’s just more Fake news/post truth news to scare the bejabbers out of those who would even consider to vote for those awful ‘populists’ as the beeb so condescendingly names them……. and is so typical of al beeb.

    as is their wont, they throw in a non sequitur……………I mean are we talking about the Arctic basin or but – reindeer are [maybe] struggling and keeps it topical innit.

    Have a warmy warmy Christmas everybody!

    • December 24, 2016 10:58 am

      Athelstan you missed the best bit of the article (my bold):

      Asked if the conditions on Christmas Eve were likely to affect Santa’s all-important journey, Dr Markus said he was confident that his sled would cope with the conditions.

      He added: “Santa is most likely overdressed though. Maybe in the future we’ll see him in a light jacket or plastic mac.”

      It’s currently -11°C in Lapland.

      • December 24, 2016 11:17 am


      • Athelstan permalink
        December 24, 2016 11:35 am

        Only -11ºC?! ha ha ha ……………..brr – and that’s a warm day !!……to me – that’s bloody perishing, and I wonder what are the current ambient temps in and around the great lakes – at the mo’?

        Mind you, Santi clawsis these days, they don’t know what cold weather is…………..when I was a lad………


      • Gerry, England permalink
        December 24, 2016 1:20 pm

        Minus eleven – that’s barely worth a t-shirt in Newcastle judging by the crowd at St James’s Park and the pictures of their folk out for a night on the town.

  24. December 24, 2016 10:38 am

    The Wattway?

    Are they trying to implicate one of their fiecest critics?

  25. Nigel S permalink
    December 24, 2016 11:25 am

    How long before they repave with yellow bricks?

  26. Gerry, England permalink
    December 24, 2016 1:23 pm

    Hmm…now if we could just arrange for a caterpillar with steel tracks to go for a drive along there.

    • Athelstan permalink
      December 24, 2016 2:06 pm

      D9 with sharp ripper!………

      What a good idea and cripes if you’re on a push bike watch out for the skid side road, it’s a diabolically loony idea but then again when did green thinking ever come up with aught else?

  27. December 24, 2016 7:53 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections and commented:
    Paul Homewood’s analysis of the solar panel roadway.

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