France on December 22 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 “Wattway” covered with 2,800 square meters of resin-coated solar panels was hooked up to the local power grid as Environment Minister Segolene Royal looked on. 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. In theory France could become energy independent by paving only a quarter of its million kilometers of roads with solar panels.