The “Solar Wind” Bridge Design Harnesses Energy Two Ways

Francesco Colarossi, Giovanna Saracino and Luisa Saracino, a trio of Italian designers, have come up with an ingenious way to generate energy without consuming valuable real estate. Between the pillars of a long-expanse bridge, a multitude of turbines capture wind energy from the faster-moving high-altitude currents. In addition, the (currently theoretical) road is paved with a “dense network of solar cells,” covered with a transparent and highly-resistant plastic,  increasing the design’s energy production.

The estimated energy production of Solar Wind is 40 million kWh per year.

If that’s not enough, a sky-high Solar Park is also built into the plan, complete with green areas, trees and enclosed rest areas. Though probably not recommended for the faint of heart, a park area is a pretty cool feature.

There are no definite plans yet to build the Solar Wind bridge, but the design in itself is rather awesome. Tell me, Geeks: do you think it’s viable?

[Source]





17 Responses to The “Solar Wind” Bridge Design Harnesses Energy Two Ways

  1. Well, 40,000,000 KW hours per year is actually like 4.5 MW on average, which is relatively very little. Its enough to power (most of the time) a large facility of some kind, like a hospital. Typical city oil, gas or coal based power production facilities generate anywhere from 400 MW to 2000 each. Most units that I’ve worked with are between like 100 and 500 MW, so this is nice if you have money to throw away. Oh also wind generation has some of the highest maintenance of any form of power production, and thats when its on the ground, not way up a bridge. And when the wind isn’t blowing you get brownouts, making this technology characteristically unreliable in a field where reliability is boss.

    • 40 million kWhr = 40,000,000,000 = 40,000,000 kWhr = 40,000 MWhr = 40 GWhr. So it is a lot of potential power.

      There are however some very real problems,
      1 that there is actually that much wind,
      2 that the actual structure of the bridge does not disrupt the air flow through the turbines themselves,
      3 with most manufacturers going for 150m diameter blades in the next 10 years, 1/section would make a lot more sense than the setup shown in the picture.

      Currently in the UK wind is being made to act like a real power station, so it can vary with demand. Put a wind farm in a good location and the power can be changed with varying the pitch of the blades to get maximum power out of the wind. I used to think wind was a complete waste of time, but in the right location, such as off shore it can create a lot of power. The real problem is that the stated 40GWhr of energy is never going to be harvested as that is if the system was 100% efficient which it wont be. More like 30-40% so expect a high potential yield but not as good as stated.

      Wind is and will be a viable renewable source, in conjunction with other fast reaction such as hydroelectric to help keep up with the demand. The problem will be to have a system that can communicate aka a smart grid.

      Anyway I think I said enough and slightly went off a tangent!

      • Yes. 40GWhr *per year*. In the average year there are 8766 hours.

        40,000,000KWhr / 8766hr = 4,563KW in an average hour

        Which means that Ineron is correct.

      • Yes. 40GWhr *per year*. In the average year there are 8766 hours.

        40,000,000KWhr / 8766hr = 4,563KW in an average hour

        Which means that Ineron is correct.

  2. Well, 40,000,000 KW hours per year is actually like 4.5 MW on average, which is relatively very little. Its enough to power (most of the time) a large facility of some kind, like a hospital. Typical city oil, gas or coal based power production facilities generate anywhere from 400 MW to 2000 each. Most units that I've worked with are between like 100 and 500 MW, so this is nice if you have money to throw away. Oh also wind generation has some of the highest maintenance of any form of power production, and thats when its on the ground, not way up a bridge. And when the wind isn't blowing you get brownouts, making this technology characteristically unreliable in a field where reliability is boss.

  3. Well, 40,000,000 KW hours per year is actually like 4.5 MW on average, which is relatively very little. Its enough to power (most of the time) a large facility of some kind, like a hospital. Typical city oil, gas or coal based power production facilities generate anywhere from 400 MW to 2000 each. Most units that I've worked with are between like 100 and 500 MW, so this is nice if you have money to throw away. Oh also wind generation has some of the highest maintenance of any form of power production, and thats when its on the ground, not way up a bridge. And when the wind isn't blowing you get brownouts, making this technology characteristically unreliable in a field where reliability is boss.

  4. I don't see any possible use.

    1 – The bridge can't be rectrofited. The weight and wind demand demands a new structure.
    2 – Current designs produce energy at around 0,3 USD per kwh. That's much more than the energy is sold for, so it just exists to provide a green parcel to the grid. This design is much more ineficient for several reasons that I can remember:
    a) Can only take wind from one direction(while the towers rotate).
    b) Is not placed far apart from structures, terrain or the others turbines that disrupt the air flow.
    So what will be the cost of the energy produced by this?

  5. To add to the list of concerns, what would the surface grip and stop distances be like on a road paved (even partially) with plastic covered solar panels?

    I would have imagined that a clear flat surface would be ideal for the panels, but of course, coarse surfaces are better for grip, and thus road user survivability. Then of course the vehicle wastes would eventually cover the road surface and block the panels effectively.

    It looks like a nice idea, but is it practical?

  6. To add to the list of concerns, what would the surface grip and stop distances be like on a road paved (even partially) with plastic covered solar panels?

    I would have imagined that a clear flat surface would be ideal for the panels, but of course, coarse surfaces are better for grip, and thus road user survivability. Then of course the vehicle wastes would eventually cover the road surface and block the panels effectively.

    It looks like a nice idea, but is it practical?

  7. - A multi-purpose structure is definitely a promising idea and reduces the human footprint on the land. That much I definitely like.
    - The "artsy" design with multiple, multi-sized turbines in the concept pics above is going to be pretty inefficient and cause some seriously odd forces to act on the bridge, so I would have to think that a single turbine per section or at least a standard number of standard sized turbines per section makes a lot more sense.
    - The actual bridge structure is going to have to be pretty strong to have the force of all those spinning turbines acting on it, but the turbines should be built to be as efficient as possible. That would mean there shouldn't be too many forces doing anything but spinning the turbines, anyway.
    - It's easy enough to build the turbines so that they can pivot and move around so that they're able to take wind from multiple directions. They will, of course, be restricted due to the "fixed plane" of the bridge, but that can be optimized during the design.
    - Placement of the bridge is going to be the biggest thing to determine its effectiveness, I think. If it were used on bridges spanning large gorges that have a constantly blowing wind that is always in a particular direction, it may be more useful. Long-spanning over open country seems a little less efficient.
    - The concept of embedded solar panels in the roadway is a cool idea, but it has a LONG way to go, I think. It's been discussed for a lot of other roadways, but, as noted here, there are still several obstacles to overcome.
    - And the parks on the bridge seems useless to me, but still totally viable.

    So, it's a cool concept and I think it could be a good thing if done right. Will it ever happen? Probably not… Does it seem like it was designed by a bunch of designers and not engineers? I def think so! lol!

  8. This structure would not be economically feasible, and it will be build in areas where we will have more than pigeons and bats flying in and mass dying. Looks like ocean and rocky terrain would have a lot of nice rare birds as well.

    I'd invest in nuclear power still, the amount of land and units needed to make wind power a real factor in the power lines is just not a reasonable amount. So yes lets build wind powered plants however let's not become fanatics and think we can power it all with wind alone.

  9. My main concern would be the turbines causing resonance within the bridge's material and causing it to fail like many other bridges have done before.

  10. Since all other topics were covered, i'm going to speak about the parking on the bridge. It seems a stupid idea to me snce it will mean building a really really large (understand heavy) bridge top, and that might not be in the interest of putting turbines unerdeath it.
    Also, parking spaces on a bridge is pretty dumb since people will inevitably slow down (see what happens on new large bridges –>cf "Le Viaduc De Millau") and there is parking spaces it will be in high demand, and hence create a slowing in traffic. Unproductive, i think.

  11. I'm just disappointed the plan doesn't include those pressure powered energy creating diamonds that clubs and subways are using to take people walking on floors to generate electricity.. if they're pie in the skying, throw those under the solar cells.