The lack of shades from the flat high road surface, coupled with the endless stream of vehicles, and the significant level of insolation and wind, may become an optimal environment for the development of renewable energy. Energy Pier headquartered in Switzerland has provided a new power source for highways by utilizing a rooftop solar “footbridge” and wind turbines that can be used as pillars, which branches out a new distributed energy on traffic paths.
The installation methods of solar power have become diversified alongside the evolution and improvement of installed capacity, as well as the maturity of rooftop solar technology. Energy Pier has been derived from rooftop solar, and its design consists of a large footbridge fully covered with solar panels that sits above the highway, as well as vertical wind turbines next to the structures that support the footbridge, in order to capture the wind underneath the bridge.
Energy Pier engineer Laurent Jospin commented that this design aims to elevate power generation efficiency, and increase the replacement frequency within the lifespan of the structures, in order to conform to the technical alternations of the system.
AnemoGen wind turbines are adopted as the vertical set up below the “solar rooftop” of highways, and the wind turbines come in various sizes, with the ability of converting air current with a lower wind speed. Energy Pier believes that through this particular technology, highways with four lanes are able to install 22K-30K pieces of solar modules and almost 320 units of AnemoGen wind turbines for each kilometer as the support of the footbridge solar, with 162 pillars as a requirement also.
The company believes that highway solar not only can be used to generate power, but also improve noise issue, especially for residential areas along the highways, where both noise and dust problems can be mitigated. The establishment is able to avoid heat and glare problems that are yielded by rain, snow, and insolation. The solar rooftop serves as a multi-functional piece of equipment at the same time, and is configurable with aqueducts to collect rain water, or cells to become an emergency charging station.
The company is currently planning for two pilot projects in Fully of Valais and the Affoltern District of Zurich, with the former measuring at 1,609m in length that will provide approximately 50 GWh of green power each year, while the latter measures at 2,500m in length with an annual power generation of 78 GWh. However, the actual condition still needs to take into account stability and the resistance of vehicle collision, as traffic safety remains as the priority.
The highway solar of Energy Pier is similar to the highway solar plan previously proposed by the Fraunhofer Institutes and Research Units, though the latter’s design only consisted of ceiling construction on highways that is paved with solar panels, while the former’s design has a more robust structure.
(Cover photo source: Energy Pier)