France Is Using 600 Miles of Roads to Generate Renewable Energy

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Cue up the cheesy '90s pop song, because France just got a lot closer to walking on sunshine.

According to Global Construction Review, France is planning to pave 621 miles of its roads with solar cells over the next five years. If the initiative is successful, it could produce enough power for about 5 million people's homes — roughly 8% of the country's population.

Ségolène Royal, the country's minister of ecology and energy, announced the plan recently while meeting with transport officials. She added that funding has already been set aside and testing for the panels will commence in the spring. Transportation and infrastructure company Colas will take the lead on the project; Colas' photovoltaic cells, called Wattway panels, will be used for the project, GCR reported.  

Solar roadways in the NetherlandsSource: Peter Dejong/AP
Solar roadways in the Netherlands  Peter Dejong/AP

The panels use polycrystalline silicon to trap sunlight, and according to Colas, they can be used on any road. They can reportedly support a variety of vehicular traffic and don't need any special engineering — they can be installed right top of the road.

While the project is certainly forward-thinking, it's not the first of its kind. In November 2014, the Netherlands opened the world's first solar bikeway; as Mic's Tom McKay reported in May, the project was a major success

Stateside, Idaho-based company Solar Roadways is attempting a similar feat. It garnered more than $2 million in funding from Indiegogo and received a third funding contract with the U.S. Department of Transportation in November. (It should be noted, however, that some have pointed to issues with the Solar Roadways project, including its cost and ability to scale.)

Yet as the cost of solar energy continues to fall, initiatives such as these may well continue to pop up. Regardless of their success, however, the will to develop new forms of power production is a promising step for alternative energy — and one we desperately need.

h/t Fusion