(Yicai Global) Jan. 4 -- A section of an expressway in China embedded with solar panels for electricity generation has been stolen just five days after it opened to traffic.
Road maintenance workers discovered two days ago that a section of the one kilometer stretch in Jinan, capital of China's eastern Shandong province, was damaged. Local officials and representatives of the tech companies involved in the project visited the scene to determine the cause of the damage and alerted police.
The light-fingered perpetrators may have been interested in the technology as the stolen parts are not worth much by themselves, local paper Qilu Evening News quoted a witness as saying. Jinan police are investigating.
"We often saw strangers secretly taking photos of the construction site," a manager at Shandong Pavenergy Co., which supplied the photovoltaic technology for the highway, told the paper. "They stole panels and technology when the road was under construction. Now the road is operational, they are still stealing!"
A section of the expressway has been cut apart; a piece of transparent concrete 10 to 15 centimeters wide and 1.85 meters long has disappeared; and seven nearby road sections show signs of heavy impact, according to Qilu Evening News reporters who visited the site.
"Given the consistency of the damage on parts of the road, we can speculate that it wasn't done manually nor was it the result of using large equipment," an industry insider told the paper. "It's more like something done by a professional team."
The 1,120-meter-long pilot project is located at the southern section of Jinan's city-ring expressway. Its peak power generation capacity is 817.2 kilowatts for 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year.
The highway has a three-layer structure of transparent concrete, photovoltaic panels and insulation on the bottom, which allows it to absorb sunlight to produce power. The total thickness is no more than three centimeters.