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'World's First Solar Highway' Opens in China for Testing
Jinan, the capital city of China's Shandong province, opened on Thursday a kilometer-long stretch of solar expressway for testing, joining France and the Netherlands that have tapped into the nascent technology.
China's new solar road consists of an insulating layer on the bottom, photovoltaic panels in the middle, and transparent concrete on top.
The solar panels cover 5,875 square meters and can generate 1 million kilowatt-hours of power in a year, or enough to meet the energy demands of about 800 homes, Qilu Transportation Development Group, the project developer, claimed.
If the technology proves effective, the electricity generated by the panels could power everything from street lights to signboards, and even a snow-melting system on the road. Excess energy can get sent to state grid.
"The project will save the space for building solar farms and shorten the transmission distance," said Xu Chunfu, the group's chairman.
But this special road—which China has hailed as the "world's first photovoltaic highway"—is designed to do a lot more than just harness the sun's rays for electricity and allow cars to get from A to B.
The site also serves as a clean energy lab to test other technologies, including wireless charging for electric vehicles and providing internet connection.
As intriguing as the project sounds, solar roads have been dismissed by critics as too expensive for practical use. China's road costs about $458 per square meter, which is much more expensive than, say, traditional asphalt.
"With the development of solar power in China, the cost can be further reduced," Xu said.
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Talk is cheap, says the acting executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, who begged governments around the world to make sure that 2020 is not another year of conferences and empty promises, but instead is the year to take decisive action to stop the mass extinction of wildlife and the destruction of habitat-sustaining ecosystems, as The Guardian reported.