The NY Times’ Green Inc
today reports on a project called The Green Roadway
. In short, it’s a plan to put lots of solar panels and wind turbines along highways, at the proposed cost of $6.5 million per 10 mile stretch (though government incentives could lop off 65% of that), powering 2,000 homes in the process.
This sounds like a combination of two other ideas that are already in the works: technology that generates energy from moving traffic, and technology that simply takes advantage of roadside space.
For example, the Oregon Solar Highway
project is a plan to line strips of highway with solar panels, to power the lights that illuminate the highway at night. And Massachusetts wants to put wind turbines on some land next to the highway, as well. These projects fall into that second category – they utilize the highway’s real estate, but they don’t actually tap into the passing traffic.
On the other hand, some companies want to put piezoelectric generators under roadways, or in speed bumps, to actually generate electricity from moving vehicles. The jury is still out on whether such technologies are smart ways to capture otherwise wasted energy, or simply ways to “steal” kinetic energy from moving vehicles, forcing them to burn more gas.
In principle, therefore, this is not new - except that the wind turbines will feed off the air produced by passing vehicles (though others
have thought of this concept
). The details of the technology are secret, though, and being auctioned off to various US states. So it’s possible that The Green Roadway’s founders have discovered revolutionary improvements over the aforementioned technologies. But the plan does seem to rely on small wind (i.e. little turbines, not giant ones), which most experts recognize as… not very effective.
However, it’s important to realize that putting solar panels and wind turbines along the road may achieve deeper and more meaningful goals than simply generating X kilowatts. Power plants fueled by coal and gas are generally hidden from sight, which helps us trivialize and forget the significance of our energy infrastructure. By bringing the instruments of clean, renewable energy into the public eye, projects such as The Green Roadway could help establish these technologies in the public consciousness. Because it’s only real if you see it in front of you.
Via Green Inc.
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