France's experimental 'solar highway' has failed, admit officials

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France's experimental 'solar highway' has failed, admit officials
The experimental road stretch in Normandy. Photo: AFP

French local authorities have admitted that a high-profile "solar highway" experiment in Normandy failed, but vowed to try again with new panels on a shorter stretch of road.


"As time went on, we realised that on an economic and financial level, in terms of producing electricity, it was a failure," said Alain Pelleray, a senior regional official in the Orne department.

From the time the one-kilometre-long road was inaugurated with great fanfare in December 2016 until March this year, the experimental route had produced 229 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity, far less than an initial forecast of 642 MWh, he added.

Instead of bringing in the expected €22,000 by selling the electricity generated to the state-owned power company EDF, the department had only received €8,000, the official said.

The road in Tourouvre, population 1,500, had been financed by €5 million in state aid, and the environment minister at the time, Segolene Royal, had announced a four-year plan for a national roll-out.

But problems cropped up with excessive noise and rapid wear on the road, forcing officials to curb the speed limit on the stretch to 70 km/h.

The panels will now be taken up and replaced new-generation ones on a 400-metre stretch, Pelleray said.

All was not lost, he added, since the project had already attracted international interest.

"We have no regrets, the department did not spend anything on this and we are talking about applied research. In terms of renown, we hit the jackpot. We've had visits by Korean and Chinese tourists and industrialists."


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