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Rant

1,000 km of solar roads in France

It’s enough to make you despair: French Energy Minister Ségolène Royal has announced the construction of 1,000 kilometers of solar panels, which would be fine if she didn’t plan to pave roads with them. Put solar on stuff, not stuff on solar, y’all (I'm looking at you, Netherlands).

This week, a construction website announced the news in English, but it’s not hard to find it in French either, so it is apparently not a canard. As a part of its “Positive Energy” campaign, France is going to “test” a whopping 1,000 kilometers of solar panels to be installed over the next five years. Would someone please tell French leaders that putting stuff on solar is a bad idea in terms of power generation – and that solar panels are really bad as road pavement. Solar roads try to kill two birds with one stone, but it is really the other way around: trying to break two stones with a bird.

The French website says that the “plan is to turn roads not only into transport paths, but also into a source of clean and renewable energy consumption without taking up additional space.” (Apparently, there are no rooftops available for solar in France.) Of course, you could just line highways with solar arrays, but that would apparently take up “additional space”; the land adjacent to highways is highly coveted property.

The best part is the total non-sequitur in the French article. The very next sentence reads, “The transport sector is the prime emitter of greenhouse gases in France at 27 percent of the total.”

In other news, my local filling station now has solar panels on the roof, so my diesel car is now electric…

How is that the Dutch road going?

You may also remember the (stupid) solar cycling path in Holland. The latest news is that the 70 meters of panels are working quite well (report in Dutch). They generated 9,800 kilowatt-hours in 2015, “enough to power three households” (sic). The price tag was 3 million euros (sick). If this article is accurate (or, if you are up for a 30-minute rant, see this video), a meter of bike path should cost around 350 euros. This bike path could have cost around 25,000 euros. The Dutch just paid 2.975 million euros to power three homes.

Of course, that amount does not include all of the attention. Let’s hope it, at least, is priceless, because solar roads are worthless.

Craig Morris (@PPchef) is the lead author of German Energy Transition. He directs Petite Planète and writes every workday for Renewables International.