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Demystifying science |  Wind turbines along highways?

Demystifying science | Wind turbines along highways?

Every week our journalists answer scientific questions from readers.


Why don't we install wind turbines along highways, as is done elsewhere?
– Show me if you like me

This approach is already attracting a lot of attention. But it uses vertical axis turbines, which are less advanced in development.

“These are vertical axis turbines,” explains Bianca Viggiano, a mechanical engineer at Montreal Polytechnic. There are some in Türkiye, and perhaps in Malaysia as well. These are low power systems [wattage] Which can operate street furniture. If they are urban highways, they can be easily connected to existing electricity grids. »

Vertical axis turbines are less efficient than those we normally see, which have a horizontal axis of rotation, with vertical blades. “The wind is stronger at altitude and the wind strength increases proportionally to the cube of the wind speed,” adds M.I Viggiano.

Converting wind energy into electricity is simply worse than horizontal axis turbines, 40% versus 50%.

Bianca Viggiano, mechanical engineer at Montreal Polytechnic

However, vertical axis wind turbines have an advantage: they are better able to harness wind despite turbulence. “In the case of horizontal axis wind turbines, the blades must face the wind,” says M.I Viggiano.

Because they are less widely used, less progress has been made in improving vertical axis wind turbines. MI Viggiano directed Journalism To specialists in this technology at the Sandia National Energy Laboratory in the United States.

oil consumption

“Vertical axis wind turbines designed for intermittent winds, to take advantage of highway turbulence, will require very strong blades and structure,” said Kevin Moore, a mechanical engineer at Sandia. “It would probably be economically unviable. For roads with heavy traffic and therefore constant winds, converting wind into electricity by wind turbines would reduce the positive impact of wind on cars. The latter would have to consume more energy.” Fuel.”

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Mr. Moore's rough calculations show that using this extra fuel to run an electric generator would produce two and a half times more electricity.


See wind turbines on highways in Türkiye (in English)

A 2015 master's thesis from a student at Delft Technical University in the Netherlands also addressed the impact of wind turbines on highways on automobile fuel consumption. He said that if wind turbines were installed in the middle of the highway, headwinds from cars traveling in the opposite direction would decrease, without any impact on fuel consumption. He calculated that 50,000 wind turbines on a 110-kilometre highway would generate 23 megawatts, 15 times less than the Signore du Beaupre wind farm, the largest in Canada.

A large number of calculators are available from the Northern Caroline Transport department, which is used by the electrician's autoroutières as a result of a larger window with more solar panels, but also that the advances in the electrician's conception are connected to a vertical axe for the change. the account. This report indicated that wind turbines would generate electricity during the early evening rush hour, while solar panels would not.

Vertical axis turbines have been tested by Hydro-Québec at Cap Chat, in Gaspésie, and at Havre aux Maisons, in the Magdalen Islands, 30 to 40 years ago. The Cap-Chat network, the largest in the world, still exists, but is not operational, and was dismantled on the islands in 2019. Vertical axis wind technology has been used since the days of windmills.

Vertical wind turbines over the centuries

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  • The Cap-Chat vertical axis wind turbine is the largest in the world, measuring 110 metres.

    Images from Wikimedia Commons

    The Cap-Chat vertical axis wind turbine is the largest in the world, measuring 110 metres.

  • Vertical axis wind turbines on Ile de la Madeleine before dismantling

    Images from Wikimedia Commons

    Vertical axis wind turbines on Ile de la Madeleine before dismantling

  • In the 1990s, a vertical axis wind farm was operating in Alberta.

    Image taken from APEGA website

    In the 1990s, a vertical axis wind farm was operating in Alberta.

  • Scottish engineer James Blyth designed vertical axis wind turbines at the end of the 19th century.

    Images from Wikimedia Commons

    Designed by Scottish engineer James Blyth at the end of the 19th centuryH Vertical axis wind turbine horn.

  • The vertical axis windmills of Nashtevan, Iran, were built in the 9th century.

    Images from Wikimedia Commons

    The vertical axis windmills of Nashtevan, Iran, were built in the 9th centuryH a century.

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  • 17%
    Percentage of global wind energy produced abroad

    Source: International Energy Agency

    50%
    Percentage of global wind energy produced in China

    Source: International Energy Agency