Jorge Chapa

STUDENT DESIGN TURNS HIGHWAYS INTO WIND FARMS

by , 04/30/07

Joe from Arizona State University, green power, car power, Highway Wind Power, Freeway Wind Power, Wind Energy, Wind Turbines, Archinect School Blog

The great thing about collaborative design sites like Archinect is that they allow brilliant student ideas to escape the confines of studio and get the attention they deserve. Case in point is Arizona student Joe who posted this amazing idea on his Archinect school blog for a highway wind turbine would harvest the wind created by fast-moving automobiles to send power back into the grid. If feasible, this wind turbine project could be easily retrofitted to transform most of the world’s highways into endless power sources. Imagine highways being known for their power generation instead of their traffic!


Joe’s project proposes the installation of two wind turbines placed horizontally on the steel frames that currently hold freeway signs along the Phoenix Highway. According to his calculations, he reckons that each turbine would be able to generate 9,600kwh per year, which would be more than enough to power a few apartments, or, as he is proposing, more than a few community hubs along the freeway.

While there are a lot of technical issues that may prevent the project’s deployment (such as the amount of turbulence on the road, the actual wind speed generated at the head height, etc) we must applaud Joe for the great idea. Good job Joe! Keep us posted…

We’ve seen a similar idea from Mark Oberholzer, the runner-up of the 2006 Metropolis Next Generation Design Competition. Nice to see this sort of thinking gaining momentum!

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33 Comments

  1. Teb5000 March 3, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    My design, that I have tried to get the president and the govoner of my state to pay attention to, is a lot simpler in design. It uses the air to get the extreme amount of energy. I am no college student , but i work in a field that manafactures equipment to move air. I know how to build the equipment to power homes and business all across America. But no one will listen

  2. Erik Evo Lution November 13, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    I like the idea that Joe is challenging the norm on wind turbines. I like that he is attempting to use the vehicle as a multi-use object, it’s brilliant. I have often pondered over the sheer amount of energy we use to travel in one direction, while someone else uses the same to travel in the opposite direction. It would be great if we could create something where the energy used to push something 1 way, was able to have a reaction to push a second vehicle the opposite way. Like pushing against each other, instead of both pushing against the ground. Haven’t figured it out yet, but its coming. I can feel it, we are close to cutting our highway emissions in half, very close.

  3. s. manohar September 18, 2011 at 3:04 am

    Most of the vehicles have aerodynamic design whereby a smooth wind flow on the top and sides of the vehicles occurs and not turbulent wind. This wind stream hugs the vehicle and probably is not thicker than half a metre. A wind turbine placed above the highway has to be at a very safe height of more than 6 metres at which location a speeding car or a truck cannot create sufficient windflow to even move the turbine blades.
    But , certainly, turbines mounted on individual posts can harness the wind but not the vehicular windflow.

  4. jaquemate932 October 1, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Great idea but it will work better by doing backwards increasing the power 10 time more stronger creating more power and will cover the cost, giving you less cost of production.
    Great design and idea, Any question email me.

  5. Dubpluris August 17, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Where I’m at with all of this is what someone mentioned earlier on in the comments. I’m just happy to see an idea being tossed around at all. As brilliant as the concept is, it appears to be just kind of thrown together. I’m sure if just a little bit more energy and attention where focused, there could be a viable take on this project. I think it’s awesome.

  6. marty July 24, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Great idea.

    The fact is, the wind is there… its another way to close the circle.

  7. Mark February 3, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    what sort of material would be used to make the blades? Aluminum, fiber glass, co-molded carbon?

  8. Aira Angeles November 12, 2007 at 4:23 am

    this design is really smart,

  9. Martin Nelson November 10, 2007 at 3:16 am

    Great ideas. Have you considered these being installed, along with other turbinnes on structures like the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel?

  10. K.Hansen September 29, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    As presented in the drawing, I don’t think it would work. The winds of the normal weather could easily mitigate the wind from the cars and small trucks. The wind from buses and simi trailer trucks would be more effective. I also think that a system as shown in the drawing would be VERY vulnerable to vandalism, HAVE YOU NEVER SEEN A PAIR OF SHOES HANGING FROM OVER HEAD WIRES?? Then there are the other elements mainly rain, snow that could complicate the function of the very simple design. It would have to be enclosed so that ONLY the wind from vehicals would impact the blades. Then the design would have to made to keep pidgins, other birds or critters from seeking places to nest, rest or feed on those that are up in there. I don’t want to be all negitive but the build up of exhaust and road grime could also reduce function. Cleaning a system like this would cause plenty of traffic delays wasting more energy. SORRY, but over all I don’t see how the idea won. WAY TOO MANY DOWN SIDES, it just isn’t practical (in my opinion) good in theory. WE NEED REAL WORLD IDEAS!!

  11. Meagan June 3, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    can they install something along subways too maybe???

  12. it_mightbme May 31, 2007 at 3:50 am

    Who says the turbines are a bigger eyesore than big green signs? They look more like modern sculpture to me.

  13. John goumas May 11, 2007 at 6:56 am

    Unfortunately we all will have to agree with steve above about the fact that the energy produced by the turbines will be much less than the fuel energy spent to move them.
    that’s because ;
    1) car burns fuel to move itself, and burns more fuel to set air around it in motion (chemical energy to motion energy)
    2)air moves the turbines (motion energy to motion energy)
    3)turbines produce electricity (motion energy to electric power)

    We all know that each energy conversion from one type of energy to another produces heat energy that is lost to the environment. so since we have 3 conversions we will be lucky to have the extra fuel spent to get the air moving , turned at 50-60% into electricity. But since the air existes the fuel will be spend anyway so we could gain something of that

  14. Nick Simpson May 5, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    I’m with Marc – motorways are already one of the biggest blots on the landscape known to man, some wind turbines won’t hurt! I’m not personally sure we even need to rely upon the wind turbulence created by the traffic – just putting turbines along the road seems fine to me, they could be integrated into the lightpost structures that line many of them…

  15. Marc May 4, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Hun Boon, last time I checked, most of the highways on the East Coast were pretty much the definition of eyesore already. Wind turbines in the medians wouldn’t make things worse. While we’re at it, we could put FOOD farms on the medians, not just wind farms, and make use of all that arable land, with a straight shot into the city. And why not minimum security prisons as well (on the widest medians), where land is already owned by the govt, escape is difficult, and passing vehicles offer a daily reminder of what freedom looks like. Prisoners (legit ones) could supply farm labor.

  16. Hun Boon May 4, 2007 at 2:42 am

    To me, one of the biggest problem with wind turbines is that they’re an eyesore, which is why they’re usually hidden away in some remote areas.

    So why are we even thinking of putting them along our busiest roads, where they are seen by millions of people every day?

  17. racheblue May 2, 2007 at 11:38 pm

    whether or not it can be made to work efficiently the design ethos should be applauded – we need more sustainable creative thinking like this :)

  18. Lynn May 2, 2007 at 8:30 am

    A great idea if cars on the highway are fast-moving (not necessarily speeding, of course). Then again, if drivers realize that they’re helping power the city, maybe they’ll drive more responsibly and there would be measures implemented to avoid traffic jams?

  19. Buyck Ruben May 2, 2007 at 4:22 am

    Nice, go go go.
    We need more creative people with action! Everything must be positive changed into ecological solutions for failures of the economic activitys of today.

  20. Gonzalo Freile May 1, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Interesting idea, but too expensive for the little benefit that can be obtained.

  21. maggie van rooyen May 1, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Brilliant! Just make it work.

  22. Erik van Lennep May 1, 2007 at 11:57 am

    I have had similar thoughts almost everytime I go down a motorway, but the model I imagined would install baffle plates on posts along the roadsides, so that the passing wind generated to the sides would wobble the plates and they could capture the energy. If you have ever stood by the side of a motorway, you know how much buffeting the traffic creates. Of course you would need to be selective, and not waste the installations in grid locked areas, and of course one solution cannot solve all the problems. If you pay attention to Nature, which after all is not only the inspiration but the final arbiter of which designs will prove to be sustainable, you know that what is required is a multiplicity of inter-related strategies, Yes, park the car, turn into a chicken coop, make it into a planter, recycle the scrap, build public transport infrastructures, redesign work regimes to allow telecommuting, place wind turbines in the median strips….. but why not harvest the spilled energy from passing vehicles as well?

  23. John Cady May 1, 2007 at 10:47 am

    I still think there’s a possibility here. Those who think Americans will ever en masse eschew driving for bikes and public transportation just don’t understand Americans. While we may convince people to do a little more turning off of lights or recycling of paper, the average person is not going to significantly complicate their life for the sake of the environment. I vote for “recycling” of energy by recapturing it in plans like this one.

  24. steve April 30, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    What the hell is wrong with you guys….. the point is not to be driven by wind FROM TRAFFIC….. I can’t imagine there being much of any lol. The point is to be elevated, and to be placed onto existing developed land, rather than setting aside land just for wind power. And in this case, it’s nice and visible and shows the general public that something is being done to point in the direction of alternative energy. (Too little too late though, probably).

    And yeah I guess there’s the danger that the excitement will backfire and people will think “ok don’t need to conserve now wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” in which case we’re right back where we started.

  25. nick April 30, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    POOR BIRDS

  26. jenn April 30, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    too much traffic in LA.. cars are always stopped! hehe

  27. Ladderless April 30, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    This was proposed about 15 years ago by a group of students in Detroit (for the 696). The discovered that it eliminated the draft efficiencies, and increased wind drag on each vehicle… You generated electricity, but caused each vehicle to consume more fuel — And the total additional fuel expended generated less electricity than if they had just pumped it into a power plant.

  28. Marc April 30, 2007 at 11:15 am

    Cool concept, though I’d favor discouraging driving rather than getting all excited about the electricity we can produce by burning gas to propel cars down highways. On the other hand, I think highway medians are just the place for full-scale wind turbines (the kind that produce electricity from natural wind) because the land is already there. Then if you added the horizontal vehicle-wind turbines off the vertical towers (assuming you can prove they actually produce more energy than the trouble the cause), you’d save on the framing and already have the power lines to tap into.

  29. Tonami April 30, 2007 at 10:09 am

    A cool way to integrate wind turbine into the existing highway infrastructure.

  30. Ashley April 30, 2007 at 9:32 am

    This is a wonderful idea. It would save a ton of room.

  31. Reden April 30, 2007 at 7:01 am

    Great design idea! But i dont think it will work…

  32. AugustusOctavius April 30, 2007 at 4:19 am

    Awesome idea for places where the cars actually move fast. Argh 405 and 55 fwys here in California.

  33. nizars April 30, 2007 at 3:05 am

    NICE TRY ….BUT IT SOO HAR AND SOO ABSOLUTLY DIFICCULT IN MY COUNTRY….HEHEHE

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