By Mariam Mahmood
Road to a Green Future
In December 2016, the building of the first solar panel road was completed in the French village of Tourouvre-au-Perche. This provides an excellent example of technological advancements being crucial in the fight against climate change.
The solar panels (made by the French company Colas) are made of glass but will not crack under the weight of a truck. Being made from super-strong glass and covered in a resin containing silicon, these panels can withstand the weight of heavy vehicles - all while producing energy. Similar panels made by other companies also contain LED lights to show lines and signs without paint and can be heated to prevent ice and snow from building up on them. As if these technological specifics are not enough, the panels also have microprocessors which allows them to communicate with each other and their central control station.
At the moment, the sun that shines onto our roads is soaked up by the tarmac and rendered useless. If our roads were to be made of solar panels, the sunlight could be harnessed to generate power. Indeed, installing these solar panels on every highway in the UK could be a huge step in the direction of a greener Britain that primarily relies on renewable energy.
This sounds too good to be true, but there is a catch. This innovative and life-changing technology is very expensive. It cost €5 million to build this single road in France. Critics have argued that this technology is a poor use of taxpayers' money. This leads me to ask the question: can we put a price on our planet's survival? This is a price we should seriously consider paying if we are to soften our reliance on fossil fuels. No one said this would be easy (or cheap). But if the output of electricity is high enough to outweigh the costs of installation, solar panel roads could be at the forefront of the green technologies that will protect our planet. The companies that produce these solar panels are aiming to reduce that cost of producing and installing them to make them an affordable and viable tool in the fight against climate change.
The energy generated from these solar panels would generate thousands of kilowatts of power that could be used to power our homes and businesses - thereby reducing the need to burn fossil fuels. It is imperative that we take advantage of new technologies such as this, rather than leaving the great potential of this source of power to be wasted.