A small number of UK road surfaces could be covered in special solar panels this year as part of a worldwide trial to see if their use could be rolled out on a large scale.
Wattway solar panels are a product from construction firm Colas. They are just 7mm thick and can be placed onto any road surface, therefore generating energy without requiring any new space.
The panels use photovoltaic technology, which converts sunlight into a flow of electrons. Colas says the surfaces can power road infrastructure such as message signs and road lighting, and there's also potential for surplus energy to be supplied to the National Grid.
Car tyres' grip on the panels should be comparable to grip on normal road surfaces, because the Wattway panels are covered in a glass bead resin coating that boosts friction levels.
Carl Fergusson, Colas's executive director strategy and development, said: “Without doubt this is an extremely exciting time for the industry and we are looking for a number of forward-thinking clients who are interested in running Wattway trials with us.
"The UK trials will form part of about 100 trials taking place worldwide."
Trails have already begun in France, and once they begin in the UK, data can be collected and collated with other global trial sites to help improve the technology.
Colas’ Campus for Science and Technology (CST), located near Paris, will use this data to create an optimised final product. The company hopes to launch a finished product in 2018, meaning solar panel roads could be rolled out on a major scale in around two years at the earliest.