The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is planning to build “solar roads” which will collect energy from the sun via solar panel installed beneath the surface of the roads.
This great effort is aimed at promoting Tokyo as an eco-friendly city, both domestically and abroad, ahead of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
The new technologies are expected to be introduced on a trial basis at facilities owned by the Tokyo government and other locations as early as the next fiscal year.
In May 2018 a solar road was installed in a car park of a Seven-Eleven store in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, which is now massive hit.
The solar road comprises of a system of solar panels installed on the road, with the surface of the panels covered with a special resin to enhance durability.
It is possible for vehicles to drive over the panels. Solar roads have already been introduced on motorways in France and on cycling roads in the Netherlands.
A manager at the Seven-Eleven store said that the solar road system can generate 16,145 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, covering about nine per cent of the entire electricity that the store consumes.
The government of Tokyo has focused on the new technologies as potential renewable energy sources.
It has set a goal of having renewable energy account for about 30 per cent of Tokyo’s power consumption by 2030, compared to a similar target of about 12 per cent in 2016. The government said there are no restrictions in terms of locations for installing the ‘solar road’ system, which increases the possibilities for expanding renewable energy.
The problem with introducing ‘solar roads’ is the high cost. As the technology is not widely used, its components are not mass-produced. In France, it costs about €5m (£4.4m) to install one kilometre of solar road.
The government plans to introduce solar roads on government-owned facilities such as car parks, where the amount of electricity generated by installing the system would justify the cost.