China recently opened a 1km section of the world's first ever solar expressway for testing. The solar panels are laid beneath parts of a ring route surrounding Jinan, the capital city of Shandong Provine in east China.
The road surface is made of transparent, weight-bearing material that allows sunlight to penetrate through and capture enough energy to be able to power up street lamps and more. The panels consist of three layers; a concrete layer, a thin amorphous silicon panel in the middle and a waterproof, insulated protection layer at the bottom.
"The top layer has good flexibility which can both withstand the pressure of large vehicles and protect the fragile amorphous silicon boards underneath," said Zhang Hongchao, chief scientist with Shandong Pavenergy, the company which was involved in the development of the project.
The panels cover 5,875 square meters and can generate 1 million kWh of power in a year, which is enough to meet the everyday demand of around 800 households, according to Qilu Transportation Development Group. “The project will save the space for building solar farms and shorten the transmission distance,” said Xu Chunfu, the group’s chairman.
Th electricity produced by the test section will be used to power highway lights, signboards, surveillance cameras, tunnels and toll gate facilities. Surplus power will be supplied to the state's grid, Xu added. Future functions to be developed includes mobile charging for electric vehicles and even provide internet connections.
China leads the world in solar power development, and you can learn more about the solar panel expressway in the video below.