This New Wind Turbine Harnesses the Power of Traffic

The wind turbines generate electricity from the 'massive, untapped energy' of moving vehicles.
Chris Young

We've all stood on the side of the road at some point and felt a gust of wind hit us in the face as we're left in the wake of a cruising lorry.

Barry Thompson, a businessman based in Kent, United Kingdom, has created a cylindrical turbine device that is attached to motorway lamp posts and is powered by this "massive, untapped energy produced by moving vehicles.".

The wind turbines, which could initially power the lights they are attached to, have the potential to help the UK reach its target of being carbon neutral by 2050 by harnessing the enormous amounts of wind generated by vehicles every day.


Alpha 311's new wind turbine design

Thomson, who hopes the spinning turbines can eventually generate enough energy to sell back to the grid, told the Daily Mail, "if you've ever stood by the road and a lorry has gone past, you'll feel the air that moves - we capture that energy."

Each turbine, built by Thomson's company Alpha 311, is two meters tall and currently costs £20,000 to make (approx. $26,000), and generates the same amount of energy as 21 square meters (226 square feet) of solar panels.

Thompson says the company is working on making the turbines more efficient and smaller down the road.

'Massive untapped energy' of moving vehicles

Alpha 311's website explains that "cars and trucks aren’t going away, so let’s make them work for the environment and for local communities."

Much like companies trying to harness the power of the ocean for generating electricity, the company says there is a "massive, untapped energy produced by moving vehicles."

Barry Thompson, CEO of Alpha 311, says his company's wind turbine is the first of its kind in the world not just for its energy harvesting potential but also for its ease of installation.

An easy, retro-fit solution

"People have thought of putting wind turbines on top of lighting columns, they've considered remaking lighting columns in their entirety, but this is a retro-fit solution, so it attaches to what we already have," Thomson explained to the Daily Mail

"We're not blighting the landscape with massive turbines, we're making use of existing infrastructure."

The company is currently in talks with a UK local authority to trial the technology on their motorways, and a number of small US cities are also trialing the technology.

For a better idea of the technology, look at the company's demo video here, and also take a look at the wind turbines in action below.