China Is Constructing A Solar Power Highway

by Heather Platt | Posted on Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

China is building a 1.2 mile (2 km) stretch of solar highway, meaning solar panels on the road will be powering the towns surrounding it. Engineers hope that soon it will wirelessly power electric cars driving on the road as well.

China Solar Power Highway

The Jinan South Ring Expressway starts off in the eastern Chinese city of Jinan, home to nearly 7 million people. Known as a tech and transportation hub, it is home to Sinotruck, the county’s state-owned heavy-duty truck manufacturer. According to state-owned media, the solar-powered leg of the expressway will be open by the end of December. It will be able to carry up to medium-sized trucks.

To build a photovoltaic highway, Chinese engineers are using three layers. The uppermost of these is transparent concrete with a feel similar to asphalt. Then come the solar panels, absorbing the sun’s rays while safely protected from nature. Below the solar panels is a strip of insulation that makes sure nature doesn’t interfere from the bottom up.

Beyond acting as a power source, the road also provides an added benefit: The panels heat can transfer through the concrete, allowing them to automatically melt snow.

Solar roads are still a rarity but they have been around since 2014 ,when one opened in the Netherlands. They fit in perfectly with China’s aggressive pursuit of solar in recent years, from farms to the largest solar park in the world.

One of the most polluted cities in China, Jinan has poor air quality that has been shown to increase the city’s mortality rate by nearly six percent. A good target for China’s newfound environmentalism, the expressway isn’t even the city’s first solar road. The Quilu Transportation Development Group, the same government group building the Expressway, also built a road in the city as a test run.

Solar road projects have previously been ridiculed for their high cost and low output. But those road have generally focused on adding solar panels on top of current roads, as opposed to China’s layered protection. The world of infrastructure will be watching to see if, once its up and cars are running on it, China can finally crack the solar road problem.


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