China is getting in on the solar road-building action. A one-kilometer stretch of solar highway developed by Qilu Transportation Development Group just opened for testing near Jinan, the capital city of China’s Shandong Province. According to Quartz the expressway has three layers: the solar panels rest in the middle, with insulation below and transparent concrete on top.
Solar panels sprawl across 5,875 square meters, or around 63,238 square feet, covering two lanes and one emergency lane in China’s new solar road now open for traffic. These panels can generate one million kilowatt-hours of clean power every year – that’s enough to meet the daily needs of roughly 800 households, according to Xinhua. Project designer Zhang Hongchao, in an interview with CCTV cited by Quartz, said the road can handle 10 times more pressure than normal asphalt roads.
Qilu Transportation Development Group chairman Xu Chunfu told Xinhua, “The project will save the space for building solar farms and shorten the transmission distance.”
The electricity generated by the solar road could go towards powering street lights, a snow-melting system, surveillance cameras, signboards, and toll gate facilities, with excess energy sent to the state grid. The plan is for the clean power to one day also charge electric vehicles.
Xu did not disclose the project’s cost to Xinhua, but did claim it was half of similar projects in other countries, saying, “With the development of solar power in China, the cost can be further reduced.” Zhang said the road cost about 3,000 yuan, or $458, per square meter, and as that is more than regular streets, it may take some time for the project to expand.
The Qilu Transportation Development Group described the road as the “world’s first freeway photovoltaic pavement experiment section.” There are other solar roadways throughout the world – around a year ago France opened a one kilometer-long solar panel road in Tourouvre-au-Perche.
Images via Qilu Transportation Development Group