Colas is in the process of identifying potential UK sites to start trialling its new solar road solution, Wattway.
The company said that the new technology provided clean, renewable energy in the form of electricity, while allowing for all types of road traffic. It said that Wattway could be installed on top of an existing road surface, as the solar panels are extremely lightweight and strong.
“Without doubt this is an extremely exciting time for the industry and we are looking for a number of forward-thinking clients who are interested in running Wattway trials with us,” said Colas executive director of strategy and development Carl Fergusson. “The UK trials will form part of about 100 trials taking place worldwide.”
The 7mm thick panels have been designed and tested to endure vehicles continuously passing over the surface, said Colas. The panels are applied on the surface using a high performance resin. According to the company, a glass bead resin coating is then applied to allow the surface to provide acceptable frictional performance without significantly affecting the solar panels’ efficiency.
Each solar panel comprises an array of 150mm wide cells making up a thin film of polycrystalline silicon that transforms solar energy into electricity. The fragile photovoltaic cells are then coated in a multilayer substrate composed of resins and polymers, translucent enough to allow sunlight to pass through, and reportedly resistant enough to withstand large vehicle traffic.
The company said that the composite’s perfectly watertight “sandwich” was also designed to adapt to the pavement’s natural thermal expansion. It added that the surface in contact with vehicle tyres was treated to ensure a skid-resistance equivalent to conventional asphalt mixes.
To connect to the photovoltaic surface, electrical connections could be installed at the edge of the carriageway or in ducts integrated in the panels themselves. To ensure safety, electronic circuit breakers would be installed.
Colas said that the power generated by Wattway had the potential to be used for highways and transportation infrastructure, such as variable message signs and street lights. It could also be returned to the grid or used to supply energy to nearby homes and businesses.
The power generated would be particularly well suited for smart grids and short-circuit electricity production, as the need for new sources of energy and electric mobility continues to rise, the company said.
“The first trial has already begun in France and by producing renewable energy, Wattway will certainly play a major role in building smart, sustainable roads of the future,” added Fergusson.
Data will be gathered on Wattway’s functionality in parallel with the site requirements, as well as how efficiently it generates energy, which will be shared with Colas’ Campus for Science and Technology (CST) near Paris.
The technology has been developed over a five-year period and a full scale global launch is expected from 2018.
“The trial sites will allow us to experiment with different ways to use this innovative technology and the feedback will help us validate the most appropriate solutions for our market,” said Fergusson. “By reviewing feedback from our UK trial sites, will allow us to validate the most appropriate solutions for the UK market, which will ultimately help build our offers for full scale launch as of 2018.”