Daylight robbery: thieves steal chunk of China’s new solar highway | World news

Thieves in China have vandalised a newly opened solar highway, less than a week after the road was christened with much fanfare.

The one-kilometre stretch of road in the eastern city of Jinan consists of solar panels under a layer of transparent concrete, allowing cars to drive over the photovoltaic cells.

But just five days after it opened on 28 December, workers found a 1.8-metre section had been removed by thieves. Reports of the heist did not emerge until this week.

Workers on the project suspected the burglars stole the panel in an attempt to duplicate the technology, since the materials themselves were inexpensive, according to local media.

The concept of roads incorporating solar panels into the road has existed for years, but only recently have cities begun to build test projects. A solar bicycle path opened in Amsterdam in 2014 and a village in France opened a one-kilometre solar road in 2016.

4896 - Daylight robbery: thieves steal chunk of China's new solar highway | World news

The world’s first photovoltaic road is built with transparent concrete on top and can bear the weight of small vehicles and medium-sized trucks. Photograph: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Those projects were plagued by high costs, and the highway section in China, which covers two lanes and an emergency lane, faced similar obstacles. The road cost about 3,000 yuan (£340) per square metre, according to an expert interviewed by state broadcast CCTV.

Before the highway even opened there had been several attempts to steal components and technology, an employee at Shandong Pavenergy, the road’s developer, was quoted as saying. Unknown men often wandered around the construction site and took photos of the project.

“Even after the project is done, people are still stealing,” he said. “It’s very upsetting.”

The one-kilometre section of highway can generate up to 1m kilowatt-hours of power a year, enough to power about 800 homes, according to state news agency Xinhua. China has the most installed solar capacity at 78.1 gigawatts, almost double second place Japan.