The Road Powered By…The Sun?


With the Autobahn in Germany and the US’s extensive highway system who would have thought that Italy was actually the first country in the world to build motorways? Completed in 1926, the road from Milan to Lake Como, or the A8 was the first true motorway. Well, the Italians are at it again with the advent of the World’s first 100% solar-powered motorway!

What is a solar-powered motorway?
Good question! I did quite a bit of digging to truly understand the concept, and it is quite revolutionary. Focused on a reduced environmental impact for the long-haul for both the ecological system and the human system, the roadway will boast the newest innovations in energy, safety, and construction. This motorway, the Catania-Siracusa, is the first large-scale integration of major infrastructure and distributed power generation. It will feature 80,000 PV panels along the road that will power the lights, tunnel fans, road signs, emergency telephones, and all the services and street furniture. The PV cells are hoisted in 3 artificial tunnels on the road and are estimated to produce 12 million kWh on an annual basis. This will reduce an approximate 31,000 tons of oil and 10,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually. WHOA!

The additional ecological efforts included “the planting of thousands of trees and plants, improving existing tree lines and hedges, and increasing the extension of local woods.”

How far along are they?
The construction portion is complete and is scheduled to open to the public in January 2011. 1/4 of all solar panels were installed and operational at the end of September, and their steady progress has continued. To date they are expected to finish on time. Although the Italians have a little bit of experience in this sector having built out solar panels along the A20, Messina-Palermo motorway, totalling 368 kWp to provide electricity for all of the building located along the 183km motorway. They have also done a similar project near the Alps.

These are quite impressive numbers and efforts made for long-term sustainability through out Italy. Now if only we can learn from their efforts and do the same when our “season of Road Construction” starts up in the US after the winter months.

To learn more about solar-powered roadways, check out the Matter Network’s article.

Where do you think we should build solar-powered roads in the US? Have you heard of the Idaho man who suggests building roads WITH solar panels in place of asphalt? Now that is turning roads into truly productive and usable spaces.

Photo Credits: Reverberi Italy

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  1. This is a great initiative. Let’s hope this is the future of highways. Not only could highways be powering its own lights and other equipment, but they could also help create electricity for surrounding cities. Solar energy is really set to take off with the technological advancements that have dropped costs.

    • I agree. If we think about it, it takes an enormous amount of power to light up long stretches of roads and highways and if this demand could be satisfied by solar power, so much energy could be saved.

      • This isn’t just for roadside lighting though. With the amount of power that this could generate, a decent percentage of homes could be powered.

        • Oh certainly, but the first priority will probably be the roads. Then of course, any excess can be used to power the surrounding homes as a backup to the primary source.

    • Lauralee Hensley
    • December 6th, 2010

    Colorado would be a great place to have solar panels because we have so many sunny days per year. Along I-25, especially since many could be hung on the noise barrier walls installed along I-25 many places through Colorado.

  2. Im honestly surprised they didn’t do it sooner! So much could of been saved so much earlier! I am guessing the proper technology or social movement wasn’t there in the past.

    Till then,


  3. @Luggage Sets , you are right but I often find that bureaucracy often stops alot of innovation from going forward :(


  4. @Driveway, I like the second suggestion about also utilizing the cars that are on the highway as a way to also use their energy. If they can figure something out for that, it would be like utilizing energy as efficient as possible!


  5. While it’s great to hear about such technological advances, it is frustrating that this technology is not being deployed more widespread. It makes you wonder if there are other reasons behind the slow progress. For example, I’m sure the economy would have serious problems if people stopped relying so heavily on gasoline. There would be a sudden shift in power and money that could have terrible consequences.

  6. I am quite excited to see how solar energy and other renewable energy sources develop. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start popping up all over the place. Maybe we’ll all have solar cells on our homes in the not too distant future.

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