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Olympics 2020: The Road to Tokyo Will Be Paved With Solar Panels

By Joanna Prisco

As Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, various signs around the city already suggest Japan’s eager anticipation of the event still two years away.

There was the three meter-tall countdown clock in Ginza installed last fall, and the Olympic-branded merchandise being sold in Harajuku. And, now, there’s the announcement of sustainable roadways to welcome athletes and their fans.

In an effort to promote itself as an eco-friendly city, the Tokyo metropolitan government plans to introduce "solar roads" that retain energy from the sun viapanels installed beneath the surface of car parks, according to a report in The Independent.

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In May, a trial section of the new solar road was installed in a car park of a 7-Eleven store in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, with more planned for facilities owned by the Tokyo government throughout the next year.

The solar road is constructed from a system of solar panels installed into the pavement and then covered with a special resin to protect and maintain durability from motor vehicles.

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Similar motorways have previously been installed in France, the Netherlands, and China, but widespread use of the renewable energy source remains stalled due to the high cost of production.

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China’s installation of solar roads in the Shandong province cost roughly $458 per square meter versus the $5 per square meter it costs to create an asphalt road, according to a report by Slate. Other critics of solar roads question their efficacy, as solar panels laid flat on pavement store less than those installed at an angle, such as on rooftops.

But these challenges have yet to prevent champions of the technology from implementing it in small stages. Tokyo previously set a goal of having renewable energy account for 30% of the city’s power consumption by 2030.

Global Citizen campaigns to get countries to mitigate climate change, and you can take action on this issue here.