An Arizona student Joe who posted this amazing idea on his Archinect school blog for a highway wind turbine would harvest the wind created by fast-moving automobiles to send power back into the grid. If feasible, this wind turbine project could be easily retrofitted to transform most of the world’s highways into endless power sources.

The highway system that dissects Phoenix is expansive. While connecting 515 square miles of the Sonoran desert to support our sprawling culture, the valley freeways divide communities. Average vehicle speeds on the valley highways are approximately 70 mph. Using average annual wind speeds of 10 mph as a baseline, each single wind turbine will produce 9,600KwH of energy, annually (enough to fully power my 700 s.f. apartment). This power production estimate will increase exponentially with an increase in wind turbulence speed. The wind stream created over the freeways by our primary mode of transportation will create an average annual wind speed well beyond the baseline of 10 mph. There are two ways in which the power could be used: supply the power directly to the grid to supplement current energy supply, or use the power locally to aid in producing a community hub for social interaction.

Objectives and beneficiaries

The site chosen to initially deploy the catalyst is located near the intersection of State Route 51 and Osborn Road. The initial draw to this site was the observation of multiple intersections. These intersections include the Grand Canal, Piestewa Parkway(State route 51), and Osborn road. This place is a transportation hub for all modes of travel; pedestrians, bicyclists, water flow, and vehicular traffic move fluidly through the site. Given the heavy preference for the car, most of the land is allocated to that user group. Whatever is left over becomes undesired space left over for decomposed granite, Palo Verde trees and the nomadic homeless. Kids also use the space to fuel their desire to be outdoors. Trails of bicycle tire marks create striated textures in the decomposed granite mounds supporting the freeway overpass. Public bicycle trails/ recreation corridors following the two pieces of infrastructure also converge on the site. Analyzing the site from an aerial view, the applied grid upon which this city is built is apparent. The fascinating point about this site is the flowing shape that the two forms of infrastructure (canal and freeway) produce, ignoring the rules of the applied grid.

As an important asset to the community, the canal system deserves more respect. It is the bloodline of the community. As such, we need to light and shade the canal. The power generated by the moving vehicles will benefit the community the best by providing these canal amenities.

Strong points of the practice

Highways are a near-constant source of potential wind energy due to the high volume of fast moving vehicles. Recapturing some of this wind energy by installing small-scale vertical wind turbines along highways could bring huge benefits in term of cutting emission from energy produced with fossil fuels. One turbine doesn't produce much power, but the cumulative effect of a high volume of smaller turbines along our highways has enormous potential for energy generation.

Expected results and benefits for climate change adaptation and mitigation

The practice aims to produce energy from wind while requalify neglected areas. In fact, another important aspect of the project is the inclusion of the notion of social justice. By mixing programs, (i.e.-homeless shelter, skate park, recreation path, communities would interact.

Replicability potential of the practice