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An Arizona State University student has proposed a very novel way of re-capturing some of the energy expended by vehicles moving at high speeds on our nations highways. We all know how much air turbulence is generated by vehicles moving at speed particularly trucks.

The proposal would involve mounting horizontal wind turbines above the roadway that would be driven by the moving air generated by the passing traffic. The electricity generated by spinning these turbines could be fed back into the grid. Joe's analysis indicates that based on vehicle speeds of 70 mph each turbine could produce 9,600 kWh per year.

The wind turbines shown in the proposal are of a quiet running type. Certainly in many built up areas there is enough constant traffic volume to maintain a steady airflow through much of the day. The big question that needs to be answered is whether the nature of the turbulent airflow could keep the turbines turning. If a turbine could be optimized to work in that environment it seems like it might be a very worthwhile investment. It's certainly deserving of further investigation.

[Source: Archinect.com]


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  • 27 Comments
      • 3 Months Ago
      This is a great idea! I've been day dreaming about something similar for awhile now. I read on the internet about a vertical axis wind turbine in Washington DC and then the next day as I was driving down the highway looking at the massive and multiple liight posts all I could think is, how much wind is being generated on this highway and how difficult would it be to make a light post where the shaft is a vertical axis wind turbine with solar panels affixed on top to create a hybrid power generator? But I never considered the idea of a Horizontal axis over the highway.
      • 3 Months Ago
      The problem is that the irregular gusts produced by traffic are not efficiently used by wind turbines. Windmills work best with constant winds. At most sites the energy recovered may not be worth the cost of the windmill installation.
      • 3 Months Ago
      if you coupled this system with a mod of wirless enrgy transmission the cars could potentialy power themselves also if you have the new paper thin solar cells on the vehicles it would be possible to get a net gain of enegy enough to power both the cars themselves and the surrounding area
      • 3 Months Ago
      I would call that "hobby" windpower and simply not making any practical sense.

      Bigger the windmill is, better the overall efficiency and of course it should be located on good windy place. In the USA you have plenty of excellent places to install massive mills worth of several megawats, no need to waste time and money on peanuts seen in that news picture.
      • 3 Months Ago
      Sorry, you don't get something for nothing! Remember the law of conservation of matter and energy? Yeah, the one we all learned in school? The energy produced by those wind turbines will be at the expense of increased drag for the cars. We're talking reduced fuel economy. Who wants that?
        • 3 Months Ago
        sorry john, but i believe the 100 km path the car will follow will follow more drag than the 2m pathway through the windmill,,, ok.. loss of energy from the moving car... how much can we loose in the 2m pathway??? one drop of ethanol? five drops ?? humm the way you drive can save you much much more.... we have to be realistic.... we are taking up energy that is already being loss.. its is a good project..
      • 3 Months Ago
      I've heard the complaint over and over again that the turbines would create extra drag on the traffic below. How would that happen? The idea is to recapture the energy that is already being expended, like the brakes on hybrid vehicles. The other argument I've heard that it wouldn't generate enough energy. In the business world, if there is a net gain, you do it. Especially if it can be repeated over and over again. Fortunes have been made on transactions that only net a few cents.
      • 3 Months Ago

      I am so totally on board with this idea, and in passing I note that the turbine is quite attractive, too! If you've ever ridden a motorcycle on the freeway, you have certainly witnessed up close and personal the immense blowback created by trucks, cars and your own velocity. So, right on!

      (BTW it is true that the turbines in Altamont Pass, Calif., in the area where I live, have killed a bunch o' birds. Pace the pigeon-haters above, I hope that doesn't happen with this one!

      Janis Mara
      www.ecotality.com
      • 3 Months Ago
      The question I have is whether this thing would essentially be a pigeon blender.
      • 3 Months Ago
      Yes, this is a cool idea, and I think they're trying it in Canada too. Overall I think it could work. The only drawback I could it could reduce some of the drafting effect (especially on a busy highway), thereby reducing MPG of the cars. However, I would expect this effect to be very minor.
      • 3 Months Ago
      What if we put strips at points along the road that span the width of the roadway and have these plungers in them with magnetic coils that are pushed down when a vehicle drives over them and thus harness the energy available on our roads from all our vehicles? If we need more energy, we could put in more of these strips at increasing points along the roadway...Then all this gathered energy could be fed back into the grid, reducing it's dependence on fossil fuels to supply electricity to our homes... As our fossil fuel using vehicles get replaced over time with cleaner vehicles, we will have a perfect clean energy oop going...Our clean cars would use our highways, our highways would harness the massive energy potential, feed it to our power plants which will provide clean electricity for our homes...???
      • 3 Months Ago
      I've had this idea for about ten years but instead of placing the horizontal wind turbines over the lanes of the highway, I placed vertical axis wind turbines which are more efficient and could resist stronger wind speeds from all angles on top of the concrete barrier of a highway. the wind created by the vehicles passing in opposite directions will be greater than if done in just one direction. the electricity produced could be sent to the grid or utilize it to illuminate the highway. there is no problem maintaining the turbines because they will not obstruct traffic.also if the wind speeed is not strong enough you can erect 8 feet tall wind deflectors that will direct the wind more directly to the turbines.when the excess electricity is not needed you store it in batteries.
      • 3 Months Ago
      If the net effect is to harness what is potential kinetic energy, it would be part of the design to exploit the features of a concrete overpass or other structure that fractures and channels harmonic phenomenon to produce a confluence of resonant waves to drive power plants. The pressure percussion from existing highway tunnels and interchanges are proof this potential goes way beyond turbulence alone and is every excuse to charge towards a micro grid scheme?
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