Green Channel - Italy Goes Solar With First Sun-Powered Road
Work is well underway to complete commissioning of this cutting edge infrastructure, which will be the most advanced motorway in Europe, including many outstanding features in terms of control systems, surveillance apparatus, tarmac quality, safety features (one of its new tunnels has also been awarded for its levels of safety). Construction activities are concluded, and a quarter of its solar photovoltaic (PV) panels were already operational by the end of September.
Pizzarotti & Co., the general contractor for this project, aims at having all of them online by early December (the panels are therefore feeding Sicily's electricity grid with clean energy even before it's used on site). Road testing is due in November, while on 1st January 2011 the Catania-Siracusa motorway will open to the public. By then, 100 percent of its electricity needs will be met by the PV panels installed along the road: 80 thousand of them. Lights, tunnel fans, road signs, emergency telephones, all the services and street furniture installed on the A18 will be run with solar power: distributed over a surface of 20 hectares, the photovoltaic array was obtained through the construction of 3 artificial tunnels on a 100m wide, 2.8km long stretch of road, a project with an overall cost of €60 million. Annual solar electricity production is estimated at about 12 million kWh, which will save — constructors claim — the equivalent of around 31 thousand tons of oil and 10 thousand tons worth of CO2 emissions every year.
The Catania-Siracusa motorway is one of the first experiments where a major infrastructure and distributed power generation are integrated in one design, surely the first at this scale. Furthermore, all the green areas involved in this project will be subject to a major environmental renovation scheme: the contractor provided for planting thousands of trees and plants, improving existing tree lines and hedges, increasing the extension of local woods. This however is not the first time renewable energy and sustainability are key to a road project in Italy. In the last few months, still in Sicily, solar panels for a total of 368 kWp where installed along the A20 Messina-Palermo: they now provide electricity for all the buildings located along the 183km motorway. A thousand km away in northern Italy, the A22 Brennero motorway (which crosses the Alps towards Austria) saw the installation of a soundproofing barrier along a residential area of the motorway route: the 1km long barrier is made of solar panels able to produce some 680,000 kWh per year, thus covering 20 percent of the local electricity needs.