The French Minister of Ecology and Environment told a transit conference last week that the country plans to implement 1,000km of solar panel paved roadways. The government says the roadways could produce enough energy to satisfy at least 8% of the population’s energy needs, or 5 million people.

The idea surrounding solar roadways gained major popularity when a video was uploaded to Youtube in 2014 titled “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways!“. The video was made in support of an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for the further development of the technology. The fundraiser was initially trying to raise $1 million but it quickly raised over 2 times its goal.

The technology claims to be able to solve a multitude of problems with conventional roadways, as well as provide numerous benefits. These include, reducing storm damage by hiding power lines, being easier to repair because it is made up of individual tiles, and having the ability to provide real time road safety alerts. In addition to generate power and increase road traction.

However, there has been backlash to the idea as it would cost far more than conventional roadways and the labour required to install the systems would be far more complicated and time consuming. As well as having technical problems involving shading and durability.

The Netherlands built a 70m test track last year for roughly $3.2 million (USD), and after 6 months it is reportedly generating enough electricity to power a single home for a year, with almost no problems. If France goes ahead with its proposed implementation we will have a better idea of how effective the technology is on a larger scale.