At a time when governments are finding it hard to make land available for new power plants, extracting energy while using the vast spread of highways all over the world seems no less lucrative proposition. However, this idea has not yet gained enough ground among the policy makers even though researchers have shown that energy could be extracted from highways by fitting them with piezoelectric devices, solar panels, wind turbines and other energy generating tools.
Future of the world would depend on our ability to create a self-sustaining environment where everything could be put to some use and dependent on each other. The energy generating road designs could become a starting point for a self-sustaining future. Here we have listed five such energy generating road designs that have been proposed in recent times.
1 USDOT solar road
The USDOT solar road is the prototype of an energy generating road that has been fitted with ‘structurally-engineered’ solar panels. The designers have used LED for painting the road lines from beneath for lighting up the roads at night. Also, heating elements are used on the surface for preventing accumulation of ice on roads during winter. It will not only produce solar energy for homes and businesses, but also replace the currently popular petroleum-based asphalt roads.
This prototype has been made by the US-based Solar Roadways. It would reduce some of the financial burden of the government as the electricity generated from solar panels could pay for the maintenance. Also, the micro processing boards embedded on the panels would provide data for damages and help track vehicles with the help of radio frequency identification tags of the processors.
2 Piezoelectric energy-generating roads
The piezoelectric energy-generating roads have been proposed in the car capitol of the world – California. This design is based on the concept of piezoelectricity that is produced in response to the mechanical stress applied on some solid materials like crystals and some ceramics. The design proposes the placement of piezoelectric sensors beneath the road surface which would produce electricity from the vibrations caused by the movement of vehicles on the road. When applied on roads, the piezoelectric technology could produce up to 44 megawatts of electricity per year from one kilometer stretch of the road and meet the energy demand of about 30,800 households.
3 Energy-generating solar road bike path
The energy-generating solar road bike path has been proposed in the Netherlands which is popular for the use of bicycles. The design proposes the construction of energy generating solar cycle paths which will be like thick concrete blocks covered by a one centimeter thick layer of silicon solar cells. The cells will be protected by a layer of strong glass allowing cyclists to ride over them. According to estimates, this design would be capable of producing about 50kWh electricity for each square meter of the solar path every year and can used for street lighting, traffic systems and household needs.
4 Concept road ribs
The electricity-generating road ribs design aims at reducing the wastage of energy as the vehicles move on roads. Research has shown that automobiles are able to use only 30 percent of the useful energy while the rest of it is wasted during travel. However, the road ribs will help in restoring this waste of energy. The design is based on the concept of production of electricity through induction process. For this, two magnetic strips and a configuration of induction coils have been housed in rubber and the coils have been carefully adjusted so that it cannot move parallel to the magnetic flux.
The ribs would be fitted in the breaking zones of the road where vehicles stop accelerating. As the moving vehicle will hit the ribs, electricity will be produced which could be later stored in a roadside battery and used for powering roadside devices.
5 E Turbines on the highways
The E Turbine is a concept wind energy generation system design that would help produce electricity from the movement of vehicles on highways. Designed by Pedro Gomes, the E Turbine uses the air movement caused by speeding vehicles on the highways for producing electricity. It could be placed between the lanes as lane separators. According to the designer, the E Turbine can also work with street and road lighting, information panels and even when there is no vehicle on the road with the help of natural wind. The energy produced by the turbines can be stored in a main battery and used for different purposes.