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New Jersey Turnpike As a Power Source?

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the woke-up-this-morning-got-myself-a-generator dept.

Power 264

New Jersites writes "New Jersey, home of the eponymous Jersey barrier, is considering wind turbines powered by the breeze generated from traffic on the Jersey Turnpike. The wind turbines won't be built on the side of the highway. They will be built inside — what else? — the Jersey barriers. By replacing sections of solid concrete with Darius turbines, they might be able to harvest enough energy to power a light-rail line."

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264 comments

Drag? (5, Insightful)

Graham MacRobie (1082093) | more than 6 years ago | (#18952955)

I'm not a physicist, but won't the turbines cause a drag effect on the cars, resulting in the cars burning more fuel? Is so, aren't they just moving the problem from one place to another? There's no such thing as free energy, right?

Truly curious - I'd love an explanation if someone knows why this isn't the case.

Re:Drag? (3, Informative)

TheSexican (796334) | more than 6 years ago | (#18952977)

Yes you would be correct. This is a terrible idea.

Re:Drag? (5, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 6 years ago | (#18954165)

A better idea would be to try to harness the anger and frustration of those of us who drive the NJ Turnpike. You could really support the power grid with all that wasted energy.

Re:Drag? (4, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#18952989)

Yeah. Without the extra drag from the turbines, that "breeze" would be reducing drag on the cars. They're basically using cars as generators. Brilliant strategy there, given how inefficient ICEs are.
 

Re:Drag? (4, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953385)

Yes, insightful for a given value of insight - however moving the turbines a short distance away from the things instead of doing something stupid will give you both the wind to spin the turbines and no extra drag on the vehicles. Ducting is also possible to get a lot of wind to the turbines if they are far away without reflecting much back on to the vehicles.

I know it's not exactly high school stuff but if you think of it as simple 2D water flow it still is not difficult - the ripples from an obstruction only travel a finite distance upstream.

Re:Drag? (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953453)

Maybe so, but it would be better to blow any captured wind back towards the center of the highway and direction of the traffic. This would push the cars along and increase everyone's fuel efficiency.

Re:Drag? (0)

largesnike (762544) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953021)

I'm not a physicist either, but I really doubt any drag would be caused to the cars. The main reason is that the wind from the cars is not mechanically attached to the cars. So if energy is removed from the wind, there would be no transference to the cars themselves. It is not a perpetual motion machine, because you always have to have the cars generating the wind in the first place. At least now, the wind is being used.

Re:Drag? (3, Informative)

tobias.sargeant (741709) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953063)

The wind isn't mechanically attached to the turbines either, but it still acts upon them.

Re:Drag? (1)

largesnike (762544) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953151)

But the cars are the wind generators, not the turbines. If a turbine generated any significant wind itself, then it wouldn't be a very effective generator, would it?

Re:Drag? (3, Insightful)

tobias.sargeant (741709) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953187)

I agree with you. Turbines do generate turbulence, however, and turbulence will impede the progress of cars to some small extent. It is possible for this to be a net win, contrary to the assumption of the originator of the thread. It's also reasonable to assume that it will cause a non zero increase in energy expenditure by cars. Whether it's negligible or not is something best left to engineers and fluid dynamics simulations.

Yes: Drag. (5, Informative)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953289)

But the cars are the wind generators, not the turbines. If a turbine generated any significant wind itself, then it wouldn't be a very effective generator, would it?

The stream of cars generates an air motion along their path. Like geese (though through a different mechanism) the leading cars reduce the amount of air drag experienced by following cars. This improves their fuel economy. (The phenomenon is even more pronounced with semi-trucks. "Drafting": following another truck closely to save even more fuel, is a common practice.

A smooth central barrier separating the two directions of traffic improves the situation by letting the two sides of the freeway have separate airstreams traveling in opposite directions. The barrier reduces energy lost to turbulence, improving the airflow.

Replacing the barrier with turbines will suck energy out of the air streams on both sides to generate electricity. The result will be to decelerate the airstreams that had been giving following vehicles an advantage.

While some of the power comes from captured crosswinds and some from capturing energy that would have been lost to turbulence anyhow, a large portion of it comes from increasing the drag on following vehicles by putting friction on the "following wind": Fuel economy for the trailing vehicles in a bunch is reduced to something near that of lone or leading vehicles.

But there's plenty of power to be had higher (5, Informative)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953377)

By the way:

There's PLENTY of power to be had WITHOUT disrupting the traffic airflow and canabalizing the fuel of the cars.

A freeway or toll road is a clear area and there will be plenty of winds ABOVE it that are essentially unrelated to the airflow near the ground. They're also faster - with energy going up with the CUBE of the airspeed.

By building a wind turbine that starts significantly above the ground the turbines can avoid disturbing the flow at traffic level while collecting plenty of energy.

Also: A Darrieus wants linear airflow THROUGH it. It would be great for salvaging power from crosswind, but rotten for snagging power from opposing winds on the two sides of its axes.

And they're a major hazard: Darrieus turbines fly at tip speeds of about 7 times the wind speed and their narrow blades experience drag loads about equivalent to a wind barrier with a cross-section the size of the swept area - reversing twice per rotation. This has tended to produce fatigue in their materials, sometimes ending with the mill coming apart in high winds some years after construction, with massive pieces flying around at a goodly fraction of the speed of sound.

A savonius-derived design (like the Sandia configuration) would be a better choice. Though it only collects about 2/3s as much power for a given swept area, it rotates at about an eighth the speed and has broad blades that can be much more solidly constructed.

Re:Drag? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18953077)

The wind from the cars *is* loosely attached to the cars. It's called viscosity [wikipedia.org].

Re:Drag? (2, Informative)

Fordiman (689627) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953259)

Actually, the turbines wouldn't 'drag' on cars. The breeze caused by the cars, and which assists the cars' passage, would be siphoned off to the turbines. The net effect is similar to drag, in that the wind assist is now gone.

Re:Drag? (1)

tobias.sargeant (741709) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953043)

It's not an entirely closed system, so I guess the answer is yes, but no. Although it will probably have an effect, it's not a given that the energy reclaimed requires an equal or greater increase in the total amount of energy expended by the cars.

Re:Drag? (4, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953065)

Absolutely. This is not a free energy at all. What I find more interesting is that the system uses the same turbine design as Quiet Revolution turbines. AFAIK this design is still under a couple of patents so they will have to shell out a very sizeable license fee. Pity Quiet Revolution is not public, this would have been a good time to play with its shares.

Re:Drag? (5, Insightful)

deek (22697) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953097)

I'm not a physicist, but won't the turbines cause a drag effect on the cars, resulting in the cars burning more fuel?


You've got it right. The turbines would take energy from the air being pushed around by the cars, leading to the breeze around the car slowing down, and therefore exerting more drag on the car.

At the same time, this is a rather ingenious way of creating a virtual toll for roads. If the power gathered is then invested into a public transport system, then you'll end up having drivers subsidise public transport. The fuel savings with public transport may well offset the extra fuel burnt through the turbine induced drag.

Re:Drag? (0, Redundant)

OAB_X (818333) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953191)

Well, Toronto has a windmill built by centennial college by the highway.

I havn't noticed any real decrease in fuel efficiency.

No that I drive anywhere near it and there is only one.....

Re:Drag? (3, Insightful)

Myself (57572) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953375)

The wind blowing on that unit isn't caused by the cars, and that wind doesn't always benefit the cars.

The wind in the (been-shot-down-before) turnpike story is a draft caused by the cars' motion, and benefits their efficiency because it acts like a slight tailwind for each vehicle. Eliminating that tailwind would have a large energy cost, compared to the minor harvest from the turbines.

Re:Drag? (2, Funny)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953209)

If the power gathered is then invested into a public transport system, then you'll end up having drivers subsidise public transport. The fuel savings with public transport may well offset the extra fuel burnt through the turbine induced drag.

Uh, is it me or does this just seem like a bad idea. Using cars (that use combustion engines about 30% efficient) to move air and then use turbines to convert part of that to energy. . .If it was entirely passive and just collected "wasted" energy I'd be all for it. Otherwise those with more aerodynamic cars essentially have to "pay less" than other drivers?? I dunno, unless it is wasted energy anyways I say go for it, otherwise its like using an electric motor to charge a battery via an electric generator.

Re:Drag? (1)

jsoderba (105512) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953335)

Otherwise those with more aerodynamic cars essentially have to "pay less" than other drivers??

A more aerodynamic car will use less fuel than a less aerodynamic, but otherwise equivalent car. You would want to reward owners of such cars. Of course, this is a very round-about and inefficient way to do the same as a fuel tax. If only Americans were not conditioned to reject any proposal with the word "tax" in it...

Re:Drag? (2, Insightful)

smenor (905244) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953227)

At the same time, this is a rather ingenious way of creating a virtual toll for roads. If the power gathered is then invested into a public transport system, then you'll end up having drivers subsidise public transport.

That's a great point I never would have thought of.

The fuel savings with public transport may well offset the extra fuel burnt through the turbine induced drag.

I'd be shocked if the energy extracted from burning extra fuel in cars on a freeway would come close to what you'd get by burning the same fuel in a properly designed power plant (and I'm quite confident that the emissions would be worse).

An ingenius waste of money, more like. (1)

a4r6 (978521) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953285)

If they charged a real toll instead and then bought electricity made from the same fossil fuels the cars would be wasting, it would probably be more efficient.

Re:Drag? (2, Insightful)

Kpt Kill (649374) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953393)

I'm not a physicist, but
but aren't those large sections of cement there for a reason? like preventing crashes from spilling to the other side of the highway?

Drag's not the full story. (5, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953113)

The energy must come from somewhere, so it must be ultimately coming from the gas powered car. However, if it is being taken in the right way it is energy that would otherwise be converted into waste heat/sound.

In other words, if the car drag is causing a wind of sorts, that wind would normally dissipate its energy as friction against the surfaces it blows along - causing the energy top be lost as heat. Now we're just providing an alternative energy soak that extracts the useful enrgy.

Re:Drag's not the full story. (1)

LotTS (967274) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953341)

Good point about recapturing energy that would normally be dissipated as heat/entropy. A lot of the dissipation will be with the air vortices caused by the moving cars. In one-way traffic, energy in those vortices will be difficult to recapture via turbines. However with opposing traffic, I can see how the vortices in that type of flow would actually help the turbines reduce the overall entropy.

Re:Drag's not the full story. (2, Interesting)

olof_the_viking (1008247) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953571)

I think it would be more energy efficient just to set a solid divider between the lanes, eliminating the counter-flow of the air streams, thereby removing most of the vortices altogether and letting the cars run with less air resistance. It is as a friend of mine says: "the power of the energy in the wind is like an 8 mm high waterfall." Treadmills at the stoplights in the city to power subways or trams would be way more efficient.

Re:Drag? (1)

Mateito (746185) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953131)

You are spot on. You get nothing for nothing. That doesn't necessarily mean that the idea is without merit

The turbines will increase drag on the cars, which will increase the amount of fuel consumed, which will result in higher emissions from the vehicles in the area immediately local to the generators. Anybody who's ever felt the car speed up when a tail-gater leaves your slipstream to overtake is familiar with the effect.

The question is whether the additional pollution due to the turbines is more or less than the pollution that would be produced if the required power was produced at a centralized generator, considering any transmission losses

In the end, the efficiecies of each energy conversion as well as tranmission losses (as electricity over wire or as air vortices between the vehicles and the turbines) needs to be considered. My gut feeling is that using a fan to turn a turbine at the other end of the room is pretty inefficient form of energy transfer.

Matt

Re:Drag? (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953607)

Anybody who's ever felt the car speed up when a tail-gater leaves your slipstream to overtake is familiar with the effect.
Actually, that's because the ass in the driver's seat speeds up the moment he thinks he's going to be overtaken due to some misplaced competitive streak. I can't find a reference, but I'm reasonably sure (based on my own cycling experience) the drafting vehicle actually reduces drag slightly on the front-runner, although nowhere near as much as it has its own drag reduced.

The question is how much of the energy siphoned off by the turbines would otherwise remain in the car+road+air system as tailwind. If not much, then the system will probably be worth it overall. If much of the energy would remain as tailwind then it's likely to be a loss overall, although as has been pointed out, it's a financial win for the local government at the expense of very slightly higher fuel consumption for every vehicle traveling past the turbines.

Re:Drag? (1)

_Ludwig (86077) | more than 6 years ago | (#18954157)

Why is pushing a turbine necessarily less efficient than pushing around a bunch of atmospheric air doing nothing in particular? I get that TANSTAAFL, but this seems more akin to cogeneration -- harnessing what would otherwise be waste energy to do something useful. Even automotive ICEs have had a mechanism to bleed waste heat into the passenger compartment in cold weather almost since their inception. Obviously I'm no physicist, but I don't get why this scheme has to increase drag on the vehicles, provided the inertia of the turbines isn't significantly greater than the inertia of the mass of the atmosphere. Once you overcome the static friction of getting the turbine going, that is.

Re:Drag? (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953133)

I'm not a physicist either, but you won't have to worry about it when traffic is moving slowly. The net effect should be negligible when traffic is moving. You only have to observe lightweight material bouncing around a highway when traffic is moving quickly to know that any reduction of wind generated in one direction will reduce the effect that it would have had on traffic moving in another direction.

In the middle, between the opposite moving traffic is a turbine effect anyway. Harnessing this will not increase drag on the vehicles any more than the barriers do now. If there were any positive effect of wind on traffic, it would be gained by reducing turbulence behind vehicles, thus increasing the 'drafting' effect that you can observe when tailgating a large truck. If the exhaust direction of the turbines is upward, it might be hazardous at very high turbine throughputs as this might cause a sideways draft at a level the cars' aerodynamics might not handle well, but this effect is unlikely. By venting turbulence away from the traffic lanes and upwards, it might reduce overall drag on the traffic.

Re:Drag? (1)

ztransform (929641) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953195)

I'm not a physicist, but won't the turbines cause a drag effect on the cars, resulting in the cars burning more fuel? Is so, aren't they just moving the problem from one place to another? There's no such thing as free energy, right?

Even worse, wind turbines extract energy out of moving air by slowing that air down. That is why, in theoretical terms, a wind turbine can be a maximum of 50 per cent efficient.

Taking moving pollution from vehicles and slowing it down cannot possibly be a good thing...

Re:Drag? (3, Informative)

smenor (905244) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953205)

I am a physicist and had the same thought.

Without a doubt, the turbines will interfere with laminar flow, increase turbulence, and increase drag.

I have no idea if the increase in drag will dominate over the increase in efficiency by reclaiming lost energy, but it's definitely something that should be studied before implementing this kind of system on a large scale.

Re:Drag? (1)

bm_luethke (253362) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953237)

Like other posters, I'm not a physicists - so take this as you will.

I really do not know - I would think that if the turbines are based off the wind generated from the moving cars that it would not increase drag - it is simply wind that that bleeds its energy off into the concrete wall anyway. I can not see how adding turbines to something other than the car can increase drag - though I also can not see how this is worth much, probably costs more to produce the system than it will ever generate. Though it may very well play well politically. If anything allowing the pressure wave to dissipate away from the path of the car will *reduce* drag.

Think of it like using the heat from braking your care to generate electricity - it takes no more energy to stop but what is bled off into the air as heat is retained in your batteries. Is it worth the added complexity and manufacturing? Dunno - I rather suspect almost no one actually knows even though many have their own ideas - those that are correct are correct more from luck than actual knowing. There is simply too much political and idealogical baggage for the non-expert to wade through, you can always find enough experts on any stance to be "correct" and enough experts to declare the "obvious consensus" to be whatever you want.

If you are moving energy that is normally just bled off into the surroundings into something useful and that is more energy (over the lifespan of the product) is greater than it's cost to create you have a plus. Anything else and the third law of thermodynamics is biting your ass in a big way. If it is truly waste and goes no where it most likely is a long term plus once the large scale manufacturing efficiencies kick in. This is also important as we look to "alternative" energy sources such as wind or tidal - if we remove the amount we need from those systems what happens?

Re:Drag? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953351)

It depends on how close they are - think of it as ripples going upstream from a rock in a river - the ripples will only reflect a certain distance back up the flow.

Re:Drag? (1)

logophage (160591) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953431)

I'd be really surprised if the change in airflow would have a significant effect on the efficiency of an automobile. First, while it is true that you *could* have laminar airflow on the road, recall that traffic is moving in *both* directions meaning that airflow is already not laminar. Second, the laminar effect is really pretty "localized" meaning that you'd only see efficiency gains if you were traveling relatively close to car in front of you (or some sort of a distance-to-cross-sectional-area relationship). So, again I'd be surprised if there's any significant increase in the MPG in your car.

Right now, we're essentially throwing the energy away when we push all that air around to maintain speed. I think it's a pretty cool idea to attempt to regain some of that energy back.

Re:Drag? (2, Insightful)

Capsaicin (412918) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953437)

There's no such thing as free energy, right?

Indeed! There is, however, such a thing as wasted energy.

Re:Drag? (1)

f4hy (998452) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953635)

I am sure a lot of the moved air from moving cars is disipated as heat. If you harnessed just that energy you would not be craeting extra drag on the cars. While I am sure these will harness more energy than just the turbulance in the air becoming heat.

Re:Drag? (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953849)

I'm sure it depends on a few things such as where they take the wind energy from. Sure, you might slow down the air and create more drag, but I'm sure there is plenty of wind energy generated from cars that wouldn't otherwise reduce drag on the cars (because it is too far away from the cars, for example). It would just bleed off into the environment as waste energy. You'd definitly have to run simulations to get some real numbers, but I'm pretty sure you'd get a net gain in usable energy from the deal.

-matthew

Not necessarily a problem (1)

supachupa (823309) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953881)

Yes, this would cause drag, however if these turbines were placed in areas where cars needed to brake (i.e. on a downfacing slope, or a tight turn), this could be a win-win situation.

I've had another idea like this for a while... what if you had a cable that went along bike paths and outfitted bicycles with strong magnets? The bicyclist would have to push a little harder, but it could help power the city. Then there's the propeller hats...

Re:Drag? (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953947)

I have an engineering degree, which is about as close as you can get to being a physicist without actually being a physicist, and you are exactly correct.

Engaging the dynamo on a bicycle makes pedalling harder. A bulb failing makes it easier.

The end result will be to increase the fuel consumption of cars using the stretch of road. It's absolutely not free energy -- it's paid for by the motorist.

Don't know what fuel costs in the states but here in the UK, we are already paying the equivalent of over US$2 for unleaded.

Re:Drag? (1)

yusing (216625) | more than 6 years ago | (#18954007)

I'm not much of physicist, but that's my reaction too ... the more tightly the air the cars pass through are coupled with the generators, the air's inertia will absorb their momentum. And I question the cost-efficiency.

There's plenty of "ambient energy" in the environment to harvest. The power of waves and tides has a lot more energy than the draft from a Taurus.

yawn (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953031)

y replacing sections of solid concrete with Darius turbines, they might be able to harvest enough energy to power a light-rail line.

That's boring. Wake me up when they can power a light rail gun.

Re:yawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18953917)

With a geothermal highway program LA could rule the world!

Why's the train not running? (5, Funny)

rmadhuram (525803) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953051)

Oh wait, there's a traffic jam!

Re:Why's the train not running? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18953121)

What is worse is that if the train becomes popular and people stop driving it will also lose power, thus making people drive again. Hmm, this reminds me of a blue sky bifurcation in non-linear dynamics (in 2-D phase space where the points correspond to where the train stops). If this is anything like my non-linear dynamics course, it is not going to end well.

Re:Why's the train not running? (1, Insightful)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953295)

That's a ridiculous idea. If less people are driving then they can use the fuel that those people would have used in their cars to power the train. There's a good chance that the train would cost less fuel then all those cars would have. You'll also have less traffic with less cars so people will have less traffic jams (although I don't know if this area is prone to them) which would also mean less fuel used due to idling. Obviously you haven't thought about this too much.

Re:Why's the train not running? (1)

rmadhuram (525803) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953443)

Very few Americans take the public transport system. They like to be free and drive even it means a 90 minute commute time. So the less cars argument goes away :)

Re:Why's the train not running? (1)

kyoorius (16808) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953161)

Yep, and if they could just tap the batteries of all those vehicles sitting idle in rush hour traffic, they could power all the rails and the towns in NJ.

The barriers are supposed to be solid. (4, Insightful)

deopmix (965178) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953073)

This might work until somebody decides to use the barriers for their original purpose(separating traffic). When the Powers That Be realize that the only thing separating two lanes of traffic moving at each other at 140 mph is a few turbines they may decide that this is a Bad Idea.

Re:The barriers are supposed to be solid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18953109)

actually, the turnpike consists of 2 separated 3 lane groups in each direction. the danger of head-on collision in very slim (you can't even see the other direction's lanes, typically).

Re:The barriers are supposed to be solid. (3, Interesting)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953119)

I wouldn't be worried about the turbines failing to separate the cars (assuming they were built solidly); I'd be worried about cost. Jersey barriers are surely much cheaper and more durable than turbines, and I think the cost of turbine repair or replacement after the inevitable accidents would be enough to make this proposal uneconomical.

meant to be masssive, turbines not so much... (1)

jpellino (202698) | more than 6 years ago | (#18954133)

these are reinforced concrete (in the north) or even filled with water (in the south). they are supposed to be massive and resist a car crossing between direction lanes. these won't.

Re:The barriers are supposed to be solid. (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953995)

Why do they need concrete barriers? What's wrong with normal metal rails?

People can fly? (2, Insightful)

ghoul (157158) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953081)

If you put a light rail right in the middle of a high traffic freeway how do people get on or off? Fly?

Re:People can fly? (1)

faedle (114018) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953153)

Ask Los Angeles.

Both the LACMTA Green Line and Gold Line have significant rights-of-way in the center of Interstates. People seem to have no problem getting to the stations.

Hint: think pedestrian bridges and stairs/elevators.

Re:People can fly? (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953323)

It's really not that hard -- go down to Northern VA and look at the Orange Line on the Metro system.

It has many of its stations right in the median of Interstate 66, which is a busy stretch of road. The way the stations are laid out is that the platform is in the median, between the metro tracks. There is a little building in the median to shelter the platform, with an escalator up to a second level. This second level (which is probably 3 stories off the ground if it were a normal building, at least) has pedestrian walkways across the highway, on either side, to big parking garages.

So to ride the metro you park your car in either of the big lots, which are easily accessible from the highway (well, inasmuch as anything in the DC area is), cross the pedestrian bridge, go down the escalator, and board the train in either direction.

Now in reality the traffic patterns in the parking lots can be pretty hairy, because the exits on most of the highways are just retardedly designed (who the hell thought that the cloverleaf interchange was a good idea? -- it's a terrible idea, and it forces you to have miserably short entrance ramps; look at the Interstates in New England for how to do entrance and exit ramps, they're nice and long, with the exit BEFORE THE FUCKING ENTRANCE), so you have to be careful getting to the metro station ... but aside from that they work pretty well.

Personally I think that Interstate medians are hugely underutilized transportation corridors -- there's no reason why every Interstate in every major city ought not also be a rail right-of-way and conduit for power and telecommunications lines; at the very least we should be building all our interstates wide enough to put rail or some future transportation line in the medians, just on the chance we'll need it.

But anyway, I'm told that the cost of the above-ground stations in I-66's median, while they look expensive, were dirt cheap compared to even the smallest underground tunnel section and station in the District proper; aboveground rail lines are just so much cheaper to run that even if they require strange stations, it's advantageous.

An excuse for speeding... (4, Funny)

xrapidx (615195) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953105)

...this will create a good excuse when pullled over for speeding . You were only trying to do your part to power the light-rail line.

For F***s sake... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18953107)

If they want power, why don't they just run a power station?

Now that the CO2 scam has been exposed for the lie it is, I expect to see a boom in power station construction. Perhaps we'll get the free nuclear power we have been promised for the last 60 years?

EMR (2, Interesting)

Essequemodeia (1030028) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953125)

How outlandish would it be to embed efficient magnets within Interstate roadways while installing similar magnets within cars and trucks? This is just a late-night idea but couldn't that generate a sizable amount of electricity? Perhaps it could be realistically considered once cars are fitted with a workable system for auto-navigation, a system that might require the installation of specialized equipment in existing roadways and therefore offer a justifiable economic solution (as well as an opportunity); one of those kill-two-birds-with-one-stone approach.

Re:EMR (1)

Pikoro (844299) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953219)

I was reading the comments to see if anyone else would bring that up before I posted.

I had the same idea. Some kind of inductance generation system. Coils in the road, coils on the car...

Bad Idea (TM) is my guess. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18953291)

IAAASNAP
(I am an art student not a physicist)

But, as I recall, Internal Combustion is a notoriously inefficient method compared to other forms of energy generation. Generally, we would want to offload any energy production from low efficiency models to high efficiency models. Assuming the ICE is a very low efficiency method, we would want to harvest the least amount of energy through it as possible. A better solution, rather than putting more strain on the ICEs in the cars of today, would be to make cars vastly more efficient in the drive train and any other place where energy is transfered and used, while harvesting electricity for other purposes from greatly more efficient sources.

So my guess is even if you could do it, you wouldn't want to.

Re:Bad Idea (TM) is my guess. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18953353)

Hi, Art Student again,

A thought did just cross my mind though, if you placed the discussed system in places where breaks would be used anyway, you could possibly harvest energy that would just otherwise be heat on the discs. For example, because people would generally want to slow down when leaving a freeway and/or approaching a stop sign, you could harvest energy in those places, and assist the driver in stopping. I don't know that the complexity and magnatude of such a system would pay off with such narrow implimentations though.

Re:EMR (1)

TrondS (732720) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953511)

We toyed with this idea when I was a the uni some years ago. Placing a huge coil in a tunnel barrel that has downwards moving traffic. Instead of having to apply the brakes, cars and trailers would be slowed down by creating energy in the coil. I seem to remember we were quite drunk at the time.

"New" Jersey Barriers (5, Informative)

Akron (799321) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953157)

Before everyone decides to start bashing good ole NJ. I would like to point out that the actual article says nothing about the NJ Turnpike. The current concrete barriers are called Jersey barriers, and all we have here is a new barrier with turbines...thus the name "NEW" Jersey Barrier.

Dumb idea - way too small (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953169)

Wrong answer. Too many little turbines not generating enough energy each. Worse, gearing a number of turbines together when they don't get uniform wind pressure means some of them are just sources of drag.

Progress in wind turbines has been through scaling them up. The 50KW - 100 KW machines of the 1970s never paid for themselves. Somewhere above 500KW, the economics start to work, and farms of megawatt and up machines are quite profitable. Here's General Electric's 2.5 megawatt wind turbine, [gepower.com] which is typical of current large wind turbines. Total worldwide wind generation capacity is about 75 gigawatts. Wind power is now a serious energy source because, at last, the units are big enough to generate serious power.

Re:Dumb idea - way too small (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953257)

Worse, gearing a number of turbines together when they don't get uniform wind pressure means some of them are just sources of drag.

No problem [wikipedia.org]

Re:Dumb idea - way too small (2, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953449)

Lots of little ducts can power one big turbine.

Wind power is taking off - China is set to double the worlds installed wind power units within a couple of years. It still has problems like a small unit size and a short maintainance shedule - although with the two problems together it can mean that if you have a big farm of the things you don't lose much of the total when a unit is down. The real saving is you can burn less coal while the wind is blowing. The really big advantage is you can have a lot of spinning reserve to bring in within seconds to cover peaks and not push those thermal plants hard and reduce their life. Peaks are really the problem in power generation - not base load capacity. Another advantage is if you need a few more megawatts you can have it in under a year and not in five or ten years like you would need for a thermal plant.

The "wind power is not base load" argument is irrelevant since it gets used for other things. An extreme example is a turbine installed in Antarctica which saves shipping in a few thousand litres of fuel each year and all the hassles involved with keeping a large amount of fuel liquid. You use this stuff to save on fuel. With post 1960 control systems it is not a big deal - you don't have to ring up the power station and say you need a bit more to dig with the mining dragline and to slow down a bit when it drops the bucket and regenerates.

Traffic jam (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953179)

Traffic never moves fast enough. A mosquito will generate more wind. If anything, find a way to conduct all that waste heat away from the car into the some hot water system or a way to melt the ice in winter.

Re:Traffic jam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18953345)

I realize the article wasn't about the Jersey Turnpike, but since it was posted as if it *were*, I will just mention that the NJ turnpike going N/S (I95) is typically very fast. Admittedly, areas south of exit 8 can be very slow, but at most times, if you are traveling slower than 80 miles per hour in the left hand lane you are likely to have someone flashing their headlights into your rear view mirror.


As expected, the spurs that lead into and out of manhattan (nyc) can back up very far, and have long delays, but that doesn't affect the main flow of traffic for I95 NS.

I'm more concerned about moving these barriers close to fast moving traffic. Areas near Newark are often under construction, and having flown by these barriers at 75 mph with uneven/curving lanes, I can say it isn't a very pleasant experience.

So, as the energy benefit *increases*, the risk to drivers will likely increase as well (lack of shoulders/manuverability).

Nothing to do with New Jersey (1, Informative)

kylegordon (159137) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953183)

Dear ghod people, this isn't to do with New Jersey. It's a modification to the Jersey Barrier [wikipedia.org] which just so happens to be named after the place of origin. Absolutely nothing to do with the New Jersey Turnpike in particular at all.

Why aren't we moving towards electric transport? (2, Interesting)

copponex (13876) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953281)

This is a serious question: since virtually all energy comes from the sun, and we have an extensive infrastructure for transporting electricity as well as extensive technology for storing electricity, why are we wasting time on road-side turbines and hydrogen fuel? Obviously, you make adjustments for average cloud cover, available real estate, etc. But it seems silly to me to research hydrogen or whatever scheme Shell and BP (who are completely unbiased research firms) propose rather than leverage existing technology until they provide a real solution.

Wouldn't it make sense to say that all parking lots should be covered at least partially by solar panels? This would not only add juice to the grid but help reduce the local heating problem with asphalt, reduce temperatures inside cars (thus reducing energy used to cool them), and provide a convenient place to plug them in.

Would it cause to much pollution to make that many panels? Are electric cars truly that much more expensive? Or are lobbyists once again trying to ruin our chances of survival so we are nearly forced to keep spending money at their gas/hydrogen/soybean oil stations?

Re:Why aren't we moving towards electric transport (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18953389)

Wouldn't it make sense to say that all parking lots should be covered at least partially by solar panels? This would not only add juice to the grid but help reduce the local heating problem with asphalt, reduce temperatures inside cars (thus reducing energy used to cool them), and provide a convenient place to plug them in.

Solar panels get hot too. Besides, where do you think all the energy they collect in a addition to being hot is going to go?
All energy breaks down (breaks down? maybe degenerates...) into heat.

Reminds me of a scifi book I read about how we got really efficient solar cells and then were screwed when all the energy broke down and entered the environment. They solved it by setting up fast swathes of mirrors to reflect the sun's rays rather than collect them.

Re:Why aren't we moving towards electric transport (1)

Keys1337 (1002612) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953405)

Wouldn't it make sense to say that all parking lots should be covered at least partially by solar panels? This would not only add juice to the grid but help reduce the local heating problem with asphalt, reduce temperatures inside cars (thus reducing energy used to cool them), and provide a convenient place to plug them in.

It would also reduce the amount of parking lots, how convienent. As a property owner, you're incentive to have a parking lot would go down. Either they force you invest in your own solar energy company, or you get you property rights encumbered in red tape. I think I'd find another use for my property.

Re:Why aren't we moving towards electric transport (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953435)

Duh. The plugin hybrid has been around for a number of years now.

Take a regular hybrid vehicle. Plug the batteries into the wall.

Amazing, you can now charge the batteries at home, and when you go for a drive you can opt not to turn on the petrol engine.

If you need to go a long way, you turn on the petrol engine.

Cheaper than petrol and less polluting to our cities, and you still have all the range of a petrol vehicle.

So how much do these hybrids cost? About the same as a regular vehicle.

Great, where do I buy a plugin hybrid? Oh, you can't. The car manufacturers will sell you a hybrid but you have to go get it modded yourself to charge it at home. Why? Gee, I don't know.. maybe because they sell a whole bunch of vehicles that are not hybrids and they don't want to kill their entire product line by selling something that obsoletes it.

Re:Why aren't we moving towards electric transport (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953693)

Due do you think this is a good idea in a situation where we already are often on the edge of power outtakes. I do not think so, the only way I see is to prevent this is to only allow special connectors and special voltage degrees to get the average people away from the power grid, those connectors can be plugged into solar panels or alternative "fuel" stations. In the end I do not think hypbrids have any viable long term future.

Re:Why aren't we moving towards electric transport (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953721)

WTF is a power outtake? What are you talking about?

Are you honestly trying to suggest that the western world doesn't have a sufficient power grid to support electric cars?

Re:Why aren't we moving towards electric transport (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 6 years ago | (#18954019)

I don't know.. maybe because they sell a whole bunch of vehicles that are not hybrids and they don't want to kill their entire product line by selling something that obsoletes it.
Yeah, that's why car manufacturers never make new models, they don't want to obsolete their old ones...

Face it, hybrid cars are expensive and impractical. They take too long to charge up, and they don't last long enough. For people without garages/driveways, there is no way to charge them up either.

Re:Why aren't we moving towards electric transport (1)

joto (134244) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953811)

but it seems silly to me to research hydrogen or whatever scheme Shell and BP (who are completely unbiased research firms) propose rather than leverage existing technology until they provide a real solution.

It's not and either-or kind of thing. While Shell and BP researches whatever they want to do, other researchers working for other (private or governmental) institutions are free to research whatever they want.

Wouldn't it make sense to say that all parking lots should be covered at least partially by solar panels?

In one word: no!

Exactly why you think this makes sense at all, is beyond me, but here are some counterarguments:

  1. Solar panels are not needed for the electric cars to plug in somewhere. What you need is a connection to the electric grid.
  2. Solar panels are not needed for creating shade. What you need is a roof.
  3. Parking spots are not needed for solar panels. What you need is a place with lots of sun and cheap land.
  4. Solar panels is not needed for generating energy from the sun. It's just the most convenient way of doing it on a consumer scale (e.g. for a remote cabin, or a sailing yacht).
  5. Solar panels are not environmentally friendly (yet)
  6. Just because you make a law, doesn't mean solar panels suddenly pop up at every parking stop. Somebody will have to pay for it, and unless "someone" is the government, "someone" will probably take it to court, where the law will be invalidated. Even if "someone" is the government, it is likely that it will be taken to court. At least, nothing will happen. It's a waste of money.

Would it cause to much pollution to make that many panels?

Yes, producing solar panels produces a fair amount of pollution. There are other less polluting ways of harvesting solar energy on a larger scale, such as mirrors reflecting sunlight from a large area into a single very hot spot, which is used to run the equivalent of a steam-engine (in simplified terms). Or indirectly, such as damming up rivers and using turbines (the water was transported up above the dam by the sun)

Are electric cars truly that much more expensive?

At the market today, they are. I looked at buying a used electric car myself, and found that after replacing the batteries (which would be needed soon anyway), I could probably just as well have bought a new normal car. And I would still live with the inconveniences of an electric car (small, slow, can't drive for long, takes long time to charge, needs place to charge, still needs fossil fuels for heater in winter). Electric cars are best used for profiling companies as "environmentally aware", their practical use is still limited, and certainly not competitive.

Or are lobbyists once again trying to ruin our chances of survival so we are nearly forced to keep spending money at their gas/hydrogen/soybean oil stations?

Both the oil companies and environmental organizations keep lobbyists.

Re:Why aren't we moving towards electric transport (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 6 years ago | (#18954031)

Batteries are big, run out quickly and take hours to charge up. Solar panels are inefficient and expensive. Electricity storage technology isn't very mature.

Darius Turbines? (1)

igibo (726664) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953451)

My main man, Darius Turbines? Shit, that dude was one crazy motherfucker! This one time, he was all up on the Jersey Turnpike and shit! And I was all, and he was all, and we were all!

Something similar in London? (2, Insightful)

steevc (54110) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953513)

This week I noticed a set of four more conventional wind turbines had appeared on a new building on the A406 North Circular Road opposite Ikea. If the intention is to use the breeze generated by cars to power them then they are doomed as the traffic generally crawls past there. Given all the stuff I've read about the viability of wind turbines in built-up areas I wonder how much good they will do anyway, but it's still a very visible bit of greenwashing.

My first thought on seeing a picture of the NJ turbines was that they would have to be increasing the fuel consumption of passing cars, if only marginally. Perhaps they could be placed where people should be slowing down, e.g. off ramps and junctions, to actually slow the cars a little. I had a thought ages ago that junctions should be on raised ground so that cars are naturally slowed as they approach uphill and gain easier acceleration as they leave downhill.

Rediculus (5, Funny)

rizole (666389) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953577)

As has been pointed out already this is a stupid idea. It would make much more sense to put the turbine on the train so it's forward motion can generate electricity. That way the train is self powering. Much greener.

Systems engineering anyone? (1)

bms20 (827647) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953613)

Just a basic question: Will this system ever save the world any energy?

Energy_to_install = installation_transport_energy + manufacturing_energy

My suspicion is that far more fossil fuel will be burned building and installing this system than it will ever generate for running a light railway.

This same systems analysis makes a hummer look competitive with a prius in terms of total energy consumption during its lifetime.

What really would have been innovative is a way to make the average American car more efficient

-bms20

I've often wondered... (1)

stefanpa (1093535) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953663)

I've often wondered whether it would be worth putting wind turbines on the underside of bridges which pass over waterways. I would imagine that there should be a quite constant flow of air under them. I guess you might have some trouble with aerodynamics of the bridge.

Correction to Original Message (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953695)

It's a "Darrieus" turbine, and has nothing to do with the ancient Persian king.

But bear in mind the danger (1)

Goodl (518602) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953815)

of people falling after being on a trip through John Malkovich's head

A far better idea than sapping cars' energy (2, Informative)

ZaMoose (24734) | more than 6 years ago | (#18953977)

Lewis Black recently suggested a novel approach on The Daily Show - power cars on cognitive dissonance [newsbusters.org]. Celebrities weren't using those brain cells anyway, so any extra drag you put on 'em won't slow their hypocrisy down one bit. A win-win solution for everyone, actually...

One word for why it will be an economic failure... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18954045)

Maintenance.
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