No stone is left unturned in our desperate search for energy sources to wean us from our dependence on fossil fuels. Sources of primary renewable energy, like solar, wind, and geothermal are the primary focus, but some overlooked sources are also getting attention, because every little bit counts.
We’ve seen reports on generating electricity from stationary workout bikes, dance club floors and Japanese subway stations. Now we cover the Israeli company of Innowattech, which developed a technology to harvest mechanical energy from roadways, railroads and runways and convert it into electricity.
The vibrations caused by the vehicles are transformed into an electric current by piezoelectric generators (IPEG), solid state crystals that convert mechanical stress into current or voltage. The IPEG are connected to electrical storage or and electric grid and can be used for lighting, or eventually for charging electric vehicles.
An additional benefit is to use the piezoelectric network to record the weight, frequency and speed of the vehicles, providing information for “smart roads” that can be optimized for traffic flow, to reduce congestion and reduce pollution further.
While this clever solution does not create its own energy, it can still provide commercial amounts, an estimated 500 kW per kilometer for busy highways. The company presents a cost table comparing various power technologies, although the numbers they present are different from the ones I’m familiar with (for example, as far as I know, solar power is on the order of 30 cents per kWh, and the payback times mentioned for the subsidized photovoltaic systems in Israel is about 10 years).
Assuming, however, that the benefits are greater than the costs, this development could be a welcome addition to the sustainable energy arsenal.
Come see it in action and judge for yourself: the public is invited to attend a demonstration of the technology on December 30, 2008 at the Technion in Haifa. Details on the company website.
Graphics credit: Innowattech