By Julia Zorthian
January 12, 2017

Can a road power its own streetlights? That’s the question France is trying to answer with its first Wattway surface, a 1-km stretch of street paved with 2,880 solar panels. The Ministry of the Environment, which funded the two-year, $5 million experiment, estimates the road will produce roughly 280 megawatt-hours of energy per year, enough to light every street in the small Normandy village; it has plans to expand the setup nationwide. But first the Wattway, which opened in December, has to prove–among other things–that solar panels can survive the wear and tear of some 2,000 motorists per day.

–Julia Zorthian

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This appears in the January 23, 2017 issue of TIME.

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