Amazing news, Green Monsters! France has just taken a strong step toward focusing on renewable energy sources, by deciding to instal 621 MILES of solar panels along the nations’ roadways. The project is a collaboration between transport infrastructure company Colas and INES (France’s National Institute for Solar Energy), and has been officially sanctioned the country’s Agency of Environment and Energy Management, meaning that production can now begin.
The Wattway panels are made out of materials that will ensure adequate “resistance and tire grip,” and do not require removal of road surfaces. Instead, the panels are designed to be simply glued on top of existing pavements. Colas claims that the material can withstand even the weight of heavy trucks and that just 20 square meters of it can provide enough electricity to power an average French home. They add that a one-kilometer stretch of road laid with Wattway panels can “provide the electricity to power public lighting in a city of 5,000 inhabitants.” Overall, it is hoped that the project could provide electricity to around five million people – eight percent of France’s population.
Ségolène Royal, France’s minister of ecology and energy, plans to pay for improvements in transport infrastructure by raising taxes on the price of petrol – a decision she described as “natural” given the falling cost of oil. This new tax is expected to raise between €200-300 million ($220-440 million) toward the cost of road solarizing.
This amazing project could pave the way (pun intended) for similar initiatives to be launched in other countries, thereby decreasing the human demand for oil and other fossil fuels that is doing so much damage to our planet.
Currently, renewable energy sources provide about nine percent of U.S. electricity needs, but coal is still our most prevalent energy source. Coal mining has been responsible for massive biodiversity loss – as it has damaged an estimated 8.4 million acres of land – and has destroyed over 500 mountains. Worldwide, coal mining is responsible for 10 percent of the world’s methane emissions and releases 1,790 tons of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) per year. Oil exploration, meanwhile, is a serious threat to some of the Earth’s most valuable ecosystems and has been responsible for endangering many animal species.
The truly scary fact in all this is that only fifteen percent of carbon dioxide emissions – primarily driven by the combustion of fossil fuels – are currently being offset by the world’s forests. The oceans take in around 30 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions, but the process of ocean acidification that has been set into motion as a result is seriously harming marine animals and ecosystems. We all need to support greener initiatives whenever we can … and France’s new plan to instal solar panels along the roadways is a positive step in that direction.