China is currently building a 2km-length solar highway. This means that the solar panels on the road will be providing power to the towns that are surrounding it. The project engineers hope that this will also soon wirelessly power electric cars that are driving on the road.
The Jinan South Ring Expressway will start off in the eastern Chinese city of Jinan, which has around 7 million people living there. It is known as a tech and transportation hub, the home to Sinotruck, which is the country’s state-owned heavy duty truck manufacturer. According to state-owned media the solar-powered part of the expressway will be completed and opened by the end of December. The road is capable of carrying up to medium-sized trucks.
The Chinese engineers created three layers to build this photovoltaic highway. The uppermost layer is transparent concrete that is similar to asphalt. The next layer is the solar panels that absorbs the sun’s rays while it is protected by the uppermost layer. The bottom most part is a strip of insulation to make sure that nature doesn’t interfere from the bottom up.
Other than being a power source, the road also has another benefit. The heat from the panels can transfer through the concrete, which allows it to melt snow.
Solar roads are still a new innovation, but they have been around since 2014, where one opened in the Netherlands. This innovation is in line with China’s renewable energy pursuit in recent years, from farms to the largest solar park in the world.
Solar road projects have often been questioned for their high cost and low output. But other roads generally focused on adding solar panels on top of current roads, in contrast to China’s layered protection. Once the road will be opened, we’ll be able to see if this innovation may crack the solar road problem.