China launches first solar highway

Well, OK, it’s only about 2 km long, so ‘highway’ might be stretching it a bit.

But you have to start somewhere, and China has launched this roadway surface with special solar panels in Shandong province, home of Shanghai and 91.8 million people.

Qilu Transportation Development Group invested in the road, which features panels constructed with a translucent surface that obviously performed satisfactorily in testing. Now it will take the punishment of real life traffic. According to the official press release:

A minibus driver said he felt nothing different driving on this particular section. “I’m running at the speed of over 100 kilometers per hour. There’s nothing different from the ordinary highway. The braking distance is almost the same as well,” said the driver.

For now, the idea is that the solar road will simply operate like any other solar panel, generating electricity. But there are also plans to use the electricity and heat from the panels to melt snow and ice on the road during winter. Jijan, the city where the roadway is installed, gets about 5 days of snow a year (Washington, D.C. gets 9, Montreal Quebec gets 63).

There are also plans in the future to have electric vehicles be charged as they drive over the road. No word on exactly how that will work, but electro-magnetic induction coils are placed under the road surface. The road also has sensors and monitors to gather data about vehicles.

Like any emerging and evolving technology, the power of solar is being tested in many different ways. Who knows? In 2014 when the Netherlands opened a bike path with solar panels there was skepticism about how well it would work. But it keeps getting bigger and better, according to this article from Cleantechnica.  One day we may all be driving our EV’s on Gordon Lightfoot’s Carefree Highway.

Photo:© Qilu Transportation Development Group,
Video: CCTV

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