French Energy Minister, Ségolène Royal has inaugurated a factory in Normandy that will produce the solar panels that France is planning to use to pave some 1,000km of its road network. The contract to fabricate the road tiles was won by Société Nouvelle Areacem (SNA), a maker of DVDs and photovoltaic panels. The design for the product was invented by Colas and the National Institute of Solar Energy after a five-year research project. The next stage of the plan will be to pave a 1km length of road near the factory with the panels. The minister confirmed that €5m would be made available to speed up the production of the panel. By the end of 2017, SNA will produce 5,000 square metres of tiles for France’s “Wattways”. The power produced could be used for street lights, electric vehicles charging stations, buildings or airport zones. The joint patent for the product is based on a thin layer of crystalline silicon. The first roads will test whether the panels are durable enough to deal with real life weather and traffic for a period of around 10 years.