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In 2016, the French government announced one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in modern history: a 620-mile highway passing through Normandy built of solar panels instead of asphalt. The panels, the government said, would generate 790 kilowatts per day and power 5 million homes.

That ambitious plan flopped. In its first year, the road generated half the intended solar power. Normal wear and tear only reduced the output. Yet the public relations setback was a mere speed bump in the rapid emergence of a potentially life-changing technological advance. For an era craving creative ideas for battling climate change, solar roads may help society race to a solution.

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