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Off Grid Energy Independence
Posted on February 24, 2011 by  & 

Piezoelectric roads for California

California Assemblyman Mike Gatto has proposed a new bill that will implement piezoelectric technology already in use in Italy and Israel to harness energy from road vibrations.
According to Gatto, hybrid vehicles capture the energy lost while slowing down a vehicle and use that energy to power the car independently from the engine for significant stretches of time. But he would like to capture the energy lost as all automobiles move along a stretch of pavement and place that power into the electrical grid.
The technology works in this way: When a car or truck passes over pavement, the pavement vibrates slightly. By placing relatively inexpensive piezoelectric sensors underneath a road, the vibrations produced by vehicles can be converted into electricity, which can be used to power roadside lights, call boxes, and neighbouring communities. Identical technology has already been placed underneath highways in Israel, and Italy has signed a contract to place the technology under a stretch of the Venice-to-Trieste Autostrada. The technology can be placed under asphalt during regularly scheduled repaving, and does not affect the vehicles travelling on the road, in terms of "road feel", fuel efficiency, or emissions.
According to one report, "When the technology was put to the test in 2009, the Israeli government was able to generate 2,000 watt-hours of electricity simply by implementing the system on a 10-meter stretch of highway."
"A major source of renewable energy is right beneath our feet -- or, more accurately, our tires. California is the car capitol of the world. It only makes sense to convert to electricity the energy lost as cars travel over our roads." said Assemblyman Gatto.
Gatto's bill would require Caltrans to use existing funds to run two pilot projects with the new piezoelectric technology, one in Northern California and one in Southern California. "Caltrans could sell the power to local businesses and use the proceeds for other piezoelectric retrofitting, or simply for much-needed repairs to regular roads," said Gatto. "These projects would quite literally pay for themselves, and will be a significant source of 'green sector,' private-sector jobs. "
Source: Assemblyman Mike Gatto
Top image source: Alpsroads
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