The first solar road in the world officially opened in the small town of Tourouvre-au-Perche in Normandy, France on Wednesday. It is one kilometer long (about 0.62 miles) and took $5.2 million to produce.
Five years went into the development of the road, reports Engadget, and it’s the first of its kind. 30,000 square feet of solar panels went into making it. In the story, Engadget notes that
Being the first of its kind, the panels are still prohibitively expensive to produce en masse (they’re also less efficient than conventional panels because they’re laid flat rather than angled). But should Colas, the road’s manufacturer, figure out how to get costs down and efficiency up, France may install them along another 1,000 kilometers of its roads.
While this road is still very far from being mass produced, it’s also helpful to take a look at normal road costs to get a better idea. According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, cost models for roads in some states are as follows:
- Construct a new 2-lane undivided road – about $2 million to $3 million per mile in rural areas, about $3 million to $5 million in urban areas.
- Construct a new 4-lane highway — $4 million to $6 million per mile in rural and suburban areas, $8 million to $10 million per mile in urban areas.
- Construct a new 6-lane Interstate highway – about $7 million per mile in rural areas, $11 million or more per mile in urban areas.
- Mill and resurface a 4-lane road – about $1.25 million per mile.
- Expand an Interstate Highway from four lanes to six lanes – about $4 million per mile.
Unsurprisingly, the cost of building a solar road is much higher.
In 2014, we reported on the significant technical hurdles of building a solar road, some of which included high costs and durability concerns.
The French road is coated with a clear silicon resin that helps it withstand the impact of traffic. It remains to be seen how long the road will last until it will need a repair, though.
For now, it’s a cool thing that happened.