Renewable energy technologies are likely to become more important as other energy sources become depleted and the cost of power generation using fossil fuels rises. Renewable sources of energy have considerable potential for increasing security of supply although, in most cases, they require significant initial investment. Recognising the importance of developing renewable energy resources, the Highways Agency commissioned a preliminary scoping study in 2001 to explore available methods and assess the possibility of renewable energy generation being exploited within the highway network. This study recommended a positive response by Highways Agency in implementing full-scale trials of renewable energy generation.
Among the various means of transportation, highways cover the widest and in effect the greatest area of our precious landmass. In context of the present scenario, spaces required for energy generation are becoming scarce day by day, and yet paradoxically no substantial effort has been made to make use of the very spaces incorporated by the highways themselves. Make no mistake – solar panels have been laid beside roads, wind turbines have been installed in breezy areas; but the highways themselves continue to be the least utilized ones.
1. Solar Roadways
The Solar Roadway is a prototype of an ‘intelligent’ road with solar panels imbued onto the road itself. Along with generating clean electricity, these panels can also provide data about damages and other information, by the help of microprocessing boards embedded in them.
2. Solar Arch on Highways
The Solar Arch is a concept formulated by industrial designer Tyson Steele. It will provide covering for rural roads, that in turn can generate renewable solar energy for off-grid highway lighting. The Solar Arch can also supplement electricity demands in neighboring low capacity required areas.
3. Jet Stream Super-Highway
Conceived by industrial designer David Huang, this unique concept features vehicles extracting energy from the road infrastructure and roads in turn drawing energy from the environment. Based on an open-return wind tunnel design that produces a continuous stream of air flow from the environment, the roadway is shaped like a half-pipe in cross section. It has a series of solar-powered turbines and fans hovering above to push air into the road pathway, in addition to continuously drawing air at a controlled rate by outer drawing vents on the flanks – forming a cycle effect.
4. E Turbine on the Highways
Conceptualized by industrial designer Pedro Gomes and aptly named the E Turbine, it is basically a wind generation system that uses the air movement emanated from passing traffic to produce and accumulate energy. Supposedly it can also work with street and road lighting, information panels and emergency phones.
5. Green Roadway Project – Solar and wind generators mounted on Highways
Contrived by inventors Gene Fein and Ed Merritt, this >progressive project is based upon the green dictum of endless highways becoming metamorphosed into renewable energy generators, which could one day power our cities with clean energy and can also offer electricity for roadside charging of electric vehicles.