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This Solar Road Will Provide Power to 5 Million People
The French government plans to pave 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of its roads with solar panels in the next five years, which will supply power to millions of people.
“The maximum effect of the program, if successful, could be to furnish 5 million people with electricity, or about 8 percent of the French population," Ségolène Royal, France's minister of ecology and energy, said according to Global Construction Review.
France's Agency of Environment and Energy Management said that 4 meters (14 feet) of solarized road would be enough to supply the electrical needs of one household, excluding heat. One kilometer (0.62 miles) will supply enough electricity for 5,000 residents.
The project is the result of five years of research between French road construction company Colas and the French National Institute of Solar Energy.
The project, "Wattway," was introduced last October. The technology consists of extremely thin (7 millimeters) yet durable panels of polycrystalline silicon that can transform solar energy into electricity. The panels are also said to be 15 centimeters wide and heavy-duty skid resistant to reduce auto accidents.
"These extremely fragile photovoltaic cells are coated in a multilayer substrate composed of resins and polymers, translucent enough to allow sunlight to pass through, and resistant enough to withstand truck traffic," Colas said in a press release.
The panels are rainproof and have passed snowplow tests "with flying colors," according to the Wattway FAQ page. The company also boasts that their panels can last as long as conventional pavement, or 10 years depending on the traffic. Wattway panels can last roughly 20 years if the section is not heavily trafficked, such as stadium parking lot.
In terms of efficiency, Wattway said its panels have a 15 percent yield, compared to 18-19 percent for conventional photovoltaic panels.
The solar roads concept isn't new. SolaRoad, the world's first “solar road," has been in operation in the Netherlands since November 2014, but it's already generating more power than expected. EcoWatch has also featured a similar Idaho-based project, Solar Roadways, whose Indiegogo campaign became extremely successful when their video went viral last year.
Although there are detractors, solar roadways have been touted as an excellent way to harness the sun's energy. “Roads spend 90 percent of their time just looking up into the sky. When the sun shines, they are of course exposed to its rays," Jean-Lic Gautier, manager of the Center for Expertise at the Colas Campus for Science and Techniques, said in a press release. "It's an ideal surface area for energy applications."
Minister Royal said installation of the panels will begin this spring and proposes to pay for them by raising taxes on fossil fuels, Gas2.org reported.
She said it was “natural" to raise taxes on fossil fuels given that the cost of oil is currently so low, adding that new taxes would contribute between 200-300 million Euros ($220-440 million) to the Positive Energy initiative.
Learn more about the solar road project in this video:
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By Julia Conley
Climate campaigners on Friday expressed hope that policymakers who are stalling on taking decisive climate action would reconsider their stance in light of new warnings from an unlikely source: two economists at J.P. Morgan Chase.
Tensions are continuing to rise in Canada over a controversial pipeline project as protesters enter their 12th day blockading railways, demonstrating on streets and highways, and paralyzing the nation's rail system
Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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