Georgia unveils the first EV-charging ‘solar roadway’ in the US

Georgia unveils the first EV-charging ‘solar roadway’ in the US

The City of Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County, Georgia has launched a new solar roadway system that produces energy for an electric vehicle (EV) charging station at city hall.

Separately, the city has also revealed a new EV fast-charging plaza for up to 16 vehicles. The plaza is the inaugural project in Peachtree Corners’ new EV strategy, which could serve as a model for other cities.

The solar roadway is on a section of an autonomous vehicle test lane in the city’s Curiosity Lab real-world testing environment and has been provided through a partnership with The Ray, a non-profit proving ground in Atlanta.

The new system should produce more than 1,300 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually for a Level 2 EV charger at city hall, available at no cost to EV motorists. The charger is also equipped with an energy storage system for night-time charging.

In the future, it could power streetlights and other city infrastructure, as well as back-up for grid outages, the city said.

The Wattway solar roadway panels are manufactured by French company Colas Group in partnership with the French National Solar Energy Institute.

Solar road initiatives and trials have been launched in countries such as China and France but this installation represents the first public road deployment in the US.

Brandon Branham, Chief Technology Officer and Assistant City Manager of Peachtree Corners, told Cities Today: “This application is also the first time that the solar roadway is being used as the sole power source for an electric vehicle charging station, and not just feeding the grid with supplemental power.”

Proving ground

Early results from pilots elsewhere have cast doubt on the efficacy of solar roadways. Following a three-year government-backed trial of Wattway’s panels along a kilometer-long test road in Normandy, France, reports last year said the technology wasn’t economically viable or energy efficient.

The Wattway panels have now been engineered to be more durable and efficient, which the company says has resulted in a 21 percent performance increase.

Wattway is running new trials in Normandy and also using Curiosity Lab to test the latest version. More of the panels, which are glued on, could be added to sidewalks, bike lanes , and other surfaces in the future.

On the potential to power other city infrastructure, Branham said: “This type of scale has not been proved elsewhere and is what makes this test at Curiosity Lab so invaluable, as everything from power generation to installation and maintenance will be monitored and tweaked to achieve scalability.”

Allie Kelly, Executive Director, The Ray, added: “In the near term, urban areas like Peachtree Corners might be more relevant and resilient for solar roadways deployment than highways and interstates. You can immediately pair the energy generation with important uses like charging docks for electric bikes and scooters, and even lighting and smart city infrastructure. Conversely, solar roadways at scale on interstates [are] essentially dependent on a good connection to the utility grid, which is not always present and may create significant costs for so-called ‘interconnection’.”

Taking the EV initiative

In a separate initiative, Peachtree Corners has opened a new EV fast-charging plaza that can fast-charge up to 16 vehicles simultaneously. The deployment is the first measure from the city’s new electrification plan, developed with e-mobility consultancy Hubject Consulting.

Hubject’s analysis identified that Peachtree Corners was essentially “an EV fast-charging desert,” particularly considering the growing electric vehicle ownership in and around the city. The company analyzed the city’s residential, business, and retail layout, as well as traffic patterns and electrical capacity to identify the ideal location for the charging plaza, which is situated at Peachtree Corners Town Center…Read more>>