Innovative Engineering Projects

These days, almost everyone is aware of the benefits provided by solar power in the context of energy source. Its common benefits are clear. It helps to solve or stop global warming, saves money, provides energy reliability, energy security, energy independence and also the creation of jobs. This National Geographic video tells it all:

Well, the recent news came from France about experimenting with the solar system to accomplish the goal of providing the people with sufficient energy. France is planning to install 1000 km of solar paneled road in the coming years.

An announcement made by France government said that will provide energy by installing solar panels on roads. The French government publicized its plan to pave 1,000 kilometers (or 621 miles) of the country’s road network with durable high-quality photovoltaic panels. The government aims to provide 5 million people in France with renewable energy. That’s approximately 7-8 percent people of the total population of France.

Two important institutions are involved in the project of paving solar paneled Road:
1- Colas, a major road construction firm
2- The National French Institute of Solar Energy in combination with the nation’s top mechanical engineering schools

It took almost five years of consideration and research by Colas and the French Institute of Solar Energy to come up with the project which is considered to be one of the most expensive and unpredictable (in a sense that its unclear if the project will be succeeded to achieve its goal of providing people renewable energy just in the way it aimed to be) mechanical engineering and manufacturing projects backed by a government on such a large scale.

There are also critics on Solar Panel project. The disadvantages of the Solar System include unreliable climate reducing effects, the effectiveness of storing energy (batteries are required to store energy for the use in dark periods). All these make the project an expensive one. As concerned people are aware of the disadvantages of the Solar System, so are some solar experts pretty clear about the downfall of these “Solar Roadways”.

Obviously, the French aren’t the first ones to experiment with solar roads. Looking back in history, we definitely find many experiments of the same nature. Like:

  • the Netherlands was the first country that had installed the world’s first test-path solar panels, using bike traffic. The experiment resulted better than predicted.
  • There was a crowdfunding campaign by a US team that collected more than 2 million US dollars. The project was aimed to develop photovoltaic panels for road application with the help of many physical engineers.

The French solar-panel paved road, however, is considered to be the world’s first project installed in public roads. The panel design is patented and known as the Watt Way. It is unique as it can be applied right on top of the existing road network. So there’ll be no need to remove or reinstall of any of the existing infrastructures.

There are, however, advantages to the photovoltaic panel construction: These panels consist of a very thin layer of polycrystal silicon that is coated with a substrate resin which makes the material stronger. The thickness is only 7 mm. This structure ensures the following benefits:
1- The panel is providing more grip as compared to other solar systems.
2- It reduces the risks of accidents with cars or trucks. See also our article about Water Fuel from HHO Generators.

Apparently, these solar panels are all-weatherproof. The panels are encapsulated with silicon cells that will keep them dry during times of rain. To learn more about a mechanical engineer’s job and earning potential, check out this post.

The company owning the Solar-Panel-Paved-Road Project predicts that 20 square meters of Watt Way panels would ensure to provide enough electricity to a single French home, excluding heating. The claim is made so because it is assumed that the solar-panel-paved road is covered by traffic only 10% of all time and in at other times, the panels will be able to soak up the rays.

According to the report, Colas briefed about the project by saying that this unique Solar panel road project is likely to accomplish its goals by providing the people with renewable energy. It definitely benefits the public in many ways and it is interesting to see how it all develops. But there are more mechanical engineering startups that are worth watching. In future posts, we will highlight some of these as well.

However, there still lots of concerns as the project is surrounded by possible drawbacks of experimenting with this solar system on such a large scale. It is difficult to verify its cost-effectiveness and how to secure this renewable energy source gain.

All of these concerns are indeed fair and justified but the project is also very interesting at least in the sense of trying to provide a renewable energy source on such a large scale. Well, there’s enough time to decide whether such experiments could be used around the globe or not. Hope for the best result.

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