Someone stole a piece of Chinas new solar panel-paved road less than a week after it opened

Putting solar panel into our roads isn’t the craziest idea, but we may as well admit that it poses some unique challenges. For instance, people may want to walk away with pieces of it. That’s what happened in China, anyway, just five days after authorities opened up what they claim is the world’s first solar panel-paved highway.

As reported by the Qilu Evening News( and noted by TechNode ), the experimental kilometer-long stretching of road in Shandong is covered in more than 10,000 solar panels, sandwiched between an insulating layer on the bottom and a durable, transparent one on top — less than 3 inches thick all told. There are coils that they are able charge electric cars as they drive over it, and the system can even warm up in order to melt snow and ice. It opened to use on December 28.

Unfortunately, during an inspection on the morning of January 2, officers found a narrow piece missing, neatly cut. About 6 inches broad and 6 feet long, the piece didn’t appear to have detached on its own — suggesting person stole it. But why?

Solar panels are cheap, and this wasn’t very much of them anyway. One officer said it may expense thousands to repair, but why such a small piece? And why not take it before the road was operational? If sabotage was the goal, why cleanly take such a small chunk instead of damaging or paint over a larger segment?

That it appears to have been done by a “professional team, ”( Google’s translation) according to an industry source cited by the local news channel, may devote some insight. Perhaps they’re very interested in the technology, theorized another source.

Indeed if a group want to get replicate the photovoltaic sandwich and offer a similar product for a lower price, this might be exactly what they’d do. The practice is not uncommon in China, but this seems an unlikely target for counterfeiting.

At any rate, the road is now open after repairs were made, and no farther pieces have been stolen. The biggest loss here, for now anyway, seems to have been commuters’ time. The local police, however, are continuing their investigation.

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