Building a Bridge to Renewable Energy

Building a Bridge to Renewable Energy

Mar 14, 2011

Press release originally posted on February 2nd, 2011 by Darren Quick

Bridges are generally exposed to the elements, meaning they generally get a nice dose of sunlight often coupled with some fairly strong crosswinds. For these reasons this “Solar Wind” bridge design would seem to make a lot of sense. The proposed bridge would harness solar energy through a grid of solar cells embedded in the road surface, while wind turbines integrated into the spaces between the bridge’s pillars would be used to generate electricity from the crosswinds.

The brainchild of Italian designers Francesco Colarossi, Giovanna Saracino and Luisa Saracino, the Solar Wind concept was designed for the Solar Park Works – Solar Highway competition that asked entrants to modernize sections of a decommissioned elevated highway stretching between Bagnera and Scilla in Italy.

The road surface would replace traditional asphalt with 20 km (12.4 miles) of “solar roadways” consisting of a dense grid of solar cells coated with a transparent and durable plastic coating providing 11.2 million kWh per year. The designers say this system, combined with the 26 wind turbines integrated underneath the bridge generating 36 million kWh per year, would provide enough electricity to power approximately 15,000 homes.

In addition to the “solar roadways,” the top surface of the bridge would also include a “green promenade” along its length comprising solar greenhouses for growing local produce. Drivers would be able to stop along the bridge to buy some fresh fruit and veggies while enjoying panoramic bridge views (an idea which strikes us as “a bridge too far” for this concept).

The Solar Wind entry was awarded second prize in the Solar Park Works – Solar Highway competition and the design clearly has merit. The integration of wind turbines into the underside of high altitude bridge exposed to constant strong winds seems like a particularly good idea – given that this could be achieved from a structural engineering point of view. Let’s hope someone will see the concept and run with it.