The World’s First Solar Panel Road Just Opened in France

Officials believe the road will be able to power all of the street lights in town.

A one-kilometer-long stretch of road surfaced in solar panels has opened in the village of Tourouvre-au-Perche in Normandy, France on Thursday—and officials believe it could harvest enough power to turn on all of the town’s street lights, reports said.

The road, made up of 30,000 square feet of solar panels, is strong enough to hold the weight of large trucks, The Verge reported. French Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal has high hopes for the solar road and has plans to use the panels on every 1,000 kilometers, or about 620 miles, of France’s more than 621,000 miles of roadway.

Unfortunately, because of the design of these panels—they’re flat, not curved like roof-mounted panels — they take in less energy than the normal panels, and are also a bit more costly. But solar panel producer Colas intends to bring the price down in the near future, The Guardian reported. This time around, the sun-absorbing road cost about $5.2 million to build.

The solar road will be used by an estimated 2,000 people a day over the course of its planned two-year test. The plan is to see if the road will be able to energize all the street lights in the 3,400-person town, The Guardian reported.

Colas reportedly has around 100 other solar-panel road projects lined up—half of which are in France and the rest in other parts of the world.

Considering the challenges of the future, the idea of repurposing roads and changing how we look at how highways are built is an interesting one. Sure, asphalt works (and there are other ways we can improve it)…but if civilization can do better, then let’s make it happen.