A section of a new “solar highway” in eastern China has been stolen just five days after it opened, local media has reported.
The one-kilometre stretch of photovoltaic highway – built of solar panels which cars can drive over – opened for testing in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province on December 28.
During a routine inspection last Tuesday, staff found that it had been vandalised and a portion of it was missing, Qilu Evening News reported.
A narrow 1.8-metre panel had been removed and seven surrounding panels damaged by the thieves.
A road construction worker was quoted as saying that it appeared the theft was the work of a professional team that may have been interested in the technology used on the road.
The solar highway forms part of Jinan’s ring road system. There is a thin layer of transparent concrete on top of the panels to protect them and a layer of insulation below.
Xinhua reported earlier that the panels can generate 1 million kilowatt-hours of power a year, which is enough to meet the daily demand of about 800 households.
The solar motorway is thought to be the largest in the world after the first such road opened in a village in rural France in 2016.
An employee of Shandong Pavenergy, the project developer, was quoted by the newspaper as saying that people had been caught trying to steal panels and technology before the section of road had even been laid down.
“It is so upsetting that even after the project is done, people are still stealing,” he said.
The road has been temporarily closed for repair and the case is under investigation.
China is the world’s largest solar power producer, with installed capacity of 77.4 gigawatts at the end of 2016, according to figures from the National Energy Administration.