• Feb 3, 2011
Bridges and wind turbines seem to be a match made in heaven; most bridges are generally quite tall where wind speeds are much higher and are often in exposed mountainous areas where significant cross winds develop. Obvious, right? So why does something like the "Solar Wind" bridge not already exist. Conceived by a trio of Italian designers, Francesco Colarossi, Giovanna Saracino and Luisa Saracino, their bridge design goes beyond simply adding wind turbines between the bridge's columns. This is a 'future bridge' in every sense of the word, designed with solar panels embedded in the road surface that would provide 11.2 million kWh per year. Also, the wind turbines can provide 36 million kWh per year to produce, in total, enough energy to power 15,000 homes.

The designers didn't stop there. They included a 'green promenade' in the design which is basically a long greenhouse for growing and selling produce to people passing through. We're not sure if eating produce grown right next to a roadway is the best idea, but something has to be cut from the concept, right?

The solar wind bridge won second place in the Solar Park Works – Solar Highway competition, which called for contestants to imagine modernized sections of an elevated highway that runs between Bagnera and Scilla in Italy.

[Source: New Italian Blood via Gizmag]


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  • 37 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      More interesting is these large wind turbines now produce power at 11 cents a kilowatt, in many states that's at parity with coal!

      We are in the age where we can retire fossil fuels with clean energy.

      Gigawatt Wind Farms now cost the same as a coal power plant, with none of the mercury pollution, with none of the continued mining and coal shipping. With none of the externalities.

      The Koch Brothers have got to ask themselves is it time to Stop Fighting the Future, as it becomes the Now? It's time fossil fuel companies started transitioning into clean technologies, before they get Left Behind.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but coal, when environmental costs and NOT taken into account, can produce electricity at more like $0.04/kWh. That's why utilities and ISOs can build and maintain a distribution infrastructure and workforce and still resell the electricity to you for $0.11/kWh at a profit.

        If you take the environmental costs into account, all that math changes dramatically of course.
      • 3 Years Ago
      You will read in this article on how solar panels work. With the rising costs of electricity nowadays, it is no wonder that people are looking into alternative means of obtaining electricity. One such way is through a power solar system.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Should be built for looks alone. People would come to see this, yet another benefit.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Just as long as they engineer it so that it doesn't have a destructive resonance oscillation. One moving blade is interesting, but several moving blades of different sizes and speeds seems like a challenge.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Several different blades of different sizes are what will make sure that it doesn't have resonant frequency that will take it down.
      • 3 Years Ago
      does the writer even know what Solar Winds are?

      This is a neat idea, and it should be put to use already in new construction
      • 3 Years Ago
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      sorry, but, this "original" idea is pretty close to MY idea of "Wind Energy Skyscrapers" power plants, proposed and published in May 12, 2007
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      http://www.gaetanomarano.it/articles/028energy.html
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      • 3 Years Ago
      That is cool as hell.

      Whoever thought of this needs to keep these kinds of ideas up.
      • 3 Years Ago
      'So why does something like the "Solar Wind" bridge not already exist.'

      Because of the laws of physics.
        • 3 Years Ago
        "...the Laws of Physics"?

        Care to elaborate? Looks fine to me.

        Self-Weight, Traffic Loading, Rain Loading, Snow Loading, Wing Loading, Seismic Loading, Thermal Loading, Construction Loading, Dymanic Resonant Loading, Self-Straining Force, Constructability, Availability of Adequate Materials, Electrical Generation Capability--- All OK, so "Laws of Physics"-- check.

        Are you worried about the solar pavement? They say they have something that works. That's the least-tested portion of this project, but if they've passed a rational testing protocol that has been peer-reviewed by experts, then it's fine. It's the key to all engineering.

        Beware the notion that things would already exist if they were possible. This is technology, and the second rule of technology is to do it when it becomes economically and technically possible, and not a minute sooner. The first rule is to predict it before it's possible, otherwise you're just late.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Does it break the laws of physics? No.
        Is it practical and economic? No.

        You can generate electricity by putting buffalo on bicycles, but that does not mean it is a good idea.
        • 3 Years Ago
        No, because of the laws of economics.

        (of course the concept shown in the picture is nonsense, but there's no physical reason that precludes the integration of wind turbines into bridges or other tall structures. They've already put'em on buildings: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahrain_world_trade_center
        )
      • 3 Years Ago
      Makes bungee jumping a whole new level of extreme!
      • 3 Years Ago
      The novelty value of it appeals to me. But some of the practical considerations already posted above cast doubts on it.

      Designing away the impact of wind on exposed bridges, as mentioned, is a serious structure issue. Any additional clutter makes that worse.

      Few bridges will be ideally matched to the directional requirements of the blades. (Is there scope for using horizontal spinners beneath the road deck instead?)

      Many of the longest and most exposed bridges are across estuaries - and these are often the most important areas for birds - including seasonal migrant species who don't acquire the same familiarity with structures as native birds.

      As others have indicated, a perfect bridge and a perfect wind turbine have differing requirements. Attempting to combine the two will compromise the efficiency, purity and elegance of each.

      • 3 Years Ago
      Let's look at how you optimally place wind turbines.
      You choose the highest point available, or neat to it, save that on occasion you might use a gully where the wind is channelled.
      The turbines face the direction the wind is coming from, and are left free to swivel.
      For a bridge you will choose the lowest practical path, and the shortest distance between the points to be bridged, and in so far as the wind influences the calculations you will try to avoid it as much as possible, both to reduce strain on the bridge (Tacoma narrows) and to avoid trucks being blown off it.
      It might often run in a direction from which the wind rarely blows.

      On very rare occasions something might be possible, but in general it is a really, really silly idea not to site wind turbines optimally instead of attempting to build them into structures optimised for other things.
      I won't even go into the absurdity of placing very expensive solar panels where they can't get the maximum possible sun.

      I suppose it is all fine if you are spending someone else's money.
        • 3 Years Ago
        You're neglecting the fact that renewable energy is a huge PR issue right now-- one worthy of high-profile investment. Although the economics as they relate to the efficiency of this project are not optimized, never under-estimate the recouperative value of making a bold statement.

        In short-- the value comes from the concept that more gears will be turning than those installed on the bridge.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I've got no objection to one of these being built as a moving sculpture.
        Is it masquerading as a practical, economic energy source that causes the problems.
        Lot's of poor people are getting stuck with inflated energy bills and living in the cold to pay for other's eco-bling.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Well the particular concept in the picture would make any structural engineer cry... but the idea is great and entirely feasible. There is already a real-world skyscraper with integrated wind turbines:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahrain_world_trade_center

      Things like this are what the green energy revolution is all about... thinking outside the box.

      As for the "roadside greenhouse" idea... a lot of Germany's autobahn network runs right through farmland without issue. Personally I'd rather eat vegetables grown by the roadside than stuff grown next to a coal plant, oil refinery etc.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Joeviocoe

        I was wondering about this too. Is there any reason to have a combination of smaller and larger turbines, or is that simply so that it looks prettier? Maybe one of the engineers (I'm looking at you HollywoodF1) can chime in on this: would the combination of different sizes lessen the risk of resonant frequency problems? Even if that were the case, though, couldn't you just have five very large turbines of slightly different size and acheive the same result?
        • 3 Years Ago
        From a cost/power standpoint... it seems like a bad idea to have several smaller turbines, each with their own nacelle generator, gearbox, maintenance systems and controls. It would be MUCH cheaper and more efficient to fewer, but larger turbines.
        • 3 Years Ago
        No, honestly-- this would be a big ho-hum for us structural engineers.
        ...and we don't cry. Ever. That would be illogical.

        (see my comment above)
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