Calif. highways could be source of green energy

It's a little ironic, but automotive traffic could be the next source of green energy. AB 306, a bill for a pilot program that will harness road vibration and convert it to energy, passed the Natural Resources Committee yesterday.

A rendering of Innowattech piezoelectric sensors installed under a highway.
A rendering of Innowattech piezoelectric sensors installed under a highway. Innowattech

It might seem a little ironic, but automotive traffic could be the next source of green energy. A bill for a pilot program that will harness road vibration and convert it to energy passed 6-1 in the California State Assembly's Natural Resources Committee yesterday. It will move to the Assembly Transportation Committee for voting next week.

California Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) first introduced bill AB 306 in February.

Piezoelectric generation captures energy that cars, trains, or people generate as they move across surfaces and cause vibrations. These vibrations can be harnessed and converted to energy using piezoelectric materials underneath surfaces. Electricity stored in roadside batteries could power traffic signs and signals, or on a larger scale, be fed directly into the power grid.

A .6 mile single-lane stretch of roadway can generate up to 44 megawatts of electricity in a year, enough to power 30,800 homes. And one of the good things about this energy strategy is that rush hour typically coincides with peak energy usage.

Israel is already using piezoelectric generation on its highways, and Italy has plans to install the technology in a stretch of the Venice-to-Trieste Autostrada. Funding for this test project in Northern and Southern California would come from existing funds already set aside by California's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program.

Although a spokesperson familiar with the bill said the sensors built by Israeli technology company Innowattech or Michigan-based PowerLeap are inexpensive, no figures on the technology or installation cost could be given. However, a $50 billion backlog of road maintenance means there is ample opportunity to install piezoelectric sensors without needing to dig up roads. Determining whether or not it's cost effective to replace broken sensors before regularly schedule road maintenance is one of the pilot program's objectives.

(Source: NBC LA)

 

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