In first, road paved with solar panels powers French town

Updated 23 December 2016
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In first, road paved with solar panels powers French town

TOUROUVRE, France: France on Thursday inaugurated the world’s first “solar highway,” a road paved with solar panels providing enough energy to power the street lights of the small Normandy town of Tourouvre.
The one-kilometer (half-mile) “Wattway” covered with 2,800 square meters (30,000 square feet) of resin-coated solar panels was hooked up to the local power grid as Environment Minister Segolene Royal looked on.
“This new use of solar energy takes advantage of large swathes of road infrastructure already in use... to produce electricity without taking up new real estate,” Royal said in a statement.
The minister announced a four-year “plan for the national deployment of solar highways” with initial projects in western Brittany and southern Marseille.
An average of 2,000 cars use the road in Tourouvre each day, testing the resistance of the panels for the project carried out by French civil engineering firm Colas, a subsidiary of construction giant Bouygues.
The idea, which is also under exploration in Germany, the Netherlands and the United States, is that roadways are occupied by cars only around 20 percent of the time, providing vast expanses of surface to soak up the sun’s rays.
Colas says that in theory France could become energy independent by paving only a quarter of its million kilometers of roads with solar panels.
Sceptics are waiting to see whether the panels can withstand the ravages of time and weather, as well as the beating they will take from big trucks.
Solar panels installed on a 70-meter stretch of a cycling lane north of Amsterdam experienced some damage last winter but the problem has been resolved, the project’s company TNO said.
The Wattway project, which has received a state subsidy of five million euros (dollars), began with four pilot sites around France, in parking lots or in front of public buildings, on much smaller surfaces of between 50 and 100 square meters each.
One drawback of the system is that solar panels are more effective when angled toward the sun, typically on slanted rooftops, than when they are laid flat.
And the cost question is far from being resolved. Each kilowatt-peak — the unit of measure for solar energy — generated by Wattway currently costs 17 euros, compared with 1.30 euros for a major rooftop installation.
But Colas hopes to make the cost competitive by 2020, noting that the cost of producing solar energy decreased by 60 percent between 2009 and 2015 according to a French renewable energy association, SER.


Saudi ICT sector holds key to growth, forum told

Updated 20 March 2019
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Saudi ICT sector holds key to growth, forum told

  • 5G will be used in 30% of big cities in Saudi Arabia by 2020
  • 90% of KSA has 4G technology coverage, including remote centers and villages

RIYADH: Information and communications technology (ICT) is one of the main drivers of development in today’s world, a Riyadh forum on “Digital Transformation for an Ambitious Country” has been told.

In his opening speech to the annual Communications and Information Technology Indicators Forum, Abdul Aziz Al-Ruwais, governor of the Communications and Information Technology Commission, said the ICT sector stimulated productivity, enhanced competitiveness and encouraged innovation.

On Wednesday, the Saudi minister of communications and information technology, Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawaha, joined regional and global leaders in the ICT sector, telecom executives and government officials at the forum.

Al-Ruwais said that ICT has been used to “develop strategies and regulatory policies that can guarantee the availability of infrastructure, basic apparatus and services in all regions of the Kingdom.”

“In order to facilitate the mission of researchers, experts and those interested in telecommunication services indicators, the Communications and Information Technology Commission established an electronic platform that allows the user to have access to indicators and statistics related to the sector. This platform enables the user to view the indicators in the form of tables and detailed graphs,” he said.

Al-Ruwais said the commission has achieved 90 percent coverage of 4G technologies in the Kingdom, including remote centers and villages.

He said the authority has issued temporary licenses for fifth-generation networks, equipping 153 sites with 5G in nine cities. So far, 680 trials were conducted for 5G.

He said that ICT services achieved high indicators during the 2017 Hajj season, with local and international calls totaling 439 million through 16,000 base stations.

Mufarreh Nahari, director of Market Studies at CITC, said: “It is expected that by 2020 the experimental uses of 5G will be fully completed and they will be ready to launch the official 5G sim by then. By the end of 2020 we expect that 5G will be used in 30 percent of the big cities in Saudi Arabia.”

The past three years have seen an increase in internet usage. In 2018, two-thirds of Internet users in the Kingdom used the internet for more than four hours a day, said Nahari.

Ammar Al-Ansari, department head of Country Digital Acceleration at Cisco, said: “The agreements signed by the crown prince during his overseas visits led to the introduction of a number of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, including virtual schools and smart classrooms.” 

Seven schools in Saudi have a live stream for teachers to connect with their students. They may be 250 km to 300 km apart, but an active learning session takes place between students and educators.

Al-Ansari displayed a video from a teacher in Jeddah giving lessons to students in the northern region via a smart board. AI was used to monitor and analyze students’ attention spans. 

The analysis will help educators update traditional teaching methods.