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New Jersey Turnpike As a Power Source? 264

Posted by kdawson
from the woke-up-this-morning-got-myself-a-generator dept.
New Jersites writes "New Jersey, home of the eponymous Jersey barrier, is considering wind turbines powered by the breeze generated from traffic on the Jersey Turnpike. The wind turbines won't be built on the side of the highway. They will be built inside — what else? — the Jersey barriers. By replacing sections of solid concrete with Darius turbines, they might be able to harvest enough energy to power a light-rail line."
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New Jersey Turnpike As a Power Source?

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  • Re:Drag? (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheSexican (796334) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:21AM (#18952977)
    Yes you would be correct. This is a terrible idea.
  • Re:Drag? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rei (128717) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:23AM (#18952989) Homepage
    Yeah. Without the extra drag from the turbines, that "breeze" would be reducing drag on the cars. They're basically using cars as generators. Brilliant strategy there, given how inefficient ICEs are.
  • Re:Drag? (Score:3, Informative)

    by tobias.sargeant (741709) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:33AM (#18953063)
    The wind isn't mechanically attached to the turbines either, but it still acts upon them.
  • Re:Drag? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:34AM (#18953077)
    The wind from the cars *is* loosely attached to the cars. It's called viscosity [].
  • by Akron (799321) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:44AM (#18953157)
    Before everyone decides to start bashing good ole NJ. I would like to point out that the actual article says nothing about the NJ Turnpike. The current concrete barriers are called Jersey barriers, and all we have here is a new barrier with turbines...thus the name "NEW" Jersey Barrier.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:46AM (#18953169) Homepage

    Wrong answer. Too many little turbines not generating enough energy each. Worse, gearing a number of turbines together when they don't get uniform wind pressure means some of them are just sources of drag.

    Progress in wind turbines has been through scaling them up. The 50KW - 100 KW machines of the 1970s never paid for themselves. Somewhere above 500KW, the economics start to work, and farms of megawatt and up machines are quite profitable. Here's General Electric's 2.5 megawatt wind turbine, [] which is typical of current large wind turbines. Total worldwide wind generation capacity is about 75 gigawatts. Wind power is now a serious energy source because, at last, the units are big enough to generate serious power.

  • by kylegordon (159137) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:47AM (#18953183) Homepage
    Dear ghod people, this isn't to do with New Jersey. It's a modification to the Jersey Barrier [] which just so happens to be named after the place of origin. Absolutely nothing to do with the New Jersey Turnpike in particular at all.
  • Re:Drag? (Score:4, Informative)

    by smenor (905244) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:51AM (#18953205)

    I am a physicist and had the same thought.

    Without a doubt, the turbines will interfere with laminar flow, increase turbulence, and increase drag.

    I have no idea if the increase in drag will dominate over the increase in efficiency by reclaiming lost energy, but it's definitely something that should be studied before implementing this kind of system on a large scale.

  • Re:Drag? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Fordiman (689627) < minus distro> on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @03:01AM (#18953259) Homepage Journal
    Actually, the turbines wouldn't 'drag' on cars. The breeze caused by the cars, and which assists the cars' passage, would be siphoned off to the turbines. The net effect is similar to drag, in that the wind assist is now gone.
  • Yes: Drag. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @03:07AM (#18953289) Journal
    But the cars are the wind generators, not the turbines. If a turbine generated any significant wind itself, then it wouldn't be a very effective generator, would it?

    The stream of cars generates an air motion along their path. Like geese (though through a different mechanism) the leading cars reduce the amount of air drag experienced by following cars. This improves their fuel economy. (The phenomenon is even more pronounced with semi-trucks. "Drafting": following another truck closely to save even more fuel, is a common practice.

    A smooth central barrier separating the two directions of traffic improves the situation by letting the two sides of the freeway have separate airstreams traveling in opposite directions. The barrier reduces energy lost to turbulence, improving the airflow.

    Replacing the barrier with turbines will suck energy out of the air streams on both sides to generate electricity. The result will be to decelerate the airstreams that had been giving following vehicles an advantage.

    While some of the power comes from captured crosswinds and some from capturing energy that would have been lost to turbulence anyhow, a large portion of it comes from increasing the drag on following vehicles by putting friction on the "following wind": Fuel economy for the trailing vehicles in a bunch is reduced to something near that of lone or leading vehicles.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @03:21AM (#18953377) Journal
    By the way:

    There's PLENTY of power to be had WITHOUT disrupting the traffic airflow and canabalizing the fuel of the cars.

    A freeway or toll road is a clear area and there will be plenty of winds ABOVE it that are essentially unrelated to the airflow near the ground. They're also faster - with energy going up with the CUBE of the airspeed.

    By building a wind turbine that starts significantly above the ground the turbines can avoid disturbing the flow at traffic level while collecting plenty of energy.

    Also: A Darrieus wants linear airflow THROUGH it. It would be great for salvaging power from crosswind, but rotten for snagging power from opposing winds on the two sides of its axes.

    And they're a major hazard: Darrieus turbines fly at tip speeds of about 7 times the wind speed and their narrow blades experience drag loads about equivalent to a wind barrier with a cross-section the size of the swept area - reversing twice per rotation. This has tended to produce fatigue in their materials, sometimes ending with the mill coming apart in high winds some years after construction, with massive pieces flying around at a goodly fraction of the speed of sound.

    A savonius-derived design (like the Sandia configuration) would be a better choice. Though it only collects about 2/3s as much power for a given swept area, it rotates at about an eighth the speed and has broad blades that can be much more solidly constructed.
  • Re:Drag? (Score:3, Informative)

    by njh (24312) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @05:22AM (#18953891) Homepage
    Actually, it's nearly 60%:'_law []

    50% ain't bad anyway. It beats many other common energy transformations. Your average automobile is probably only 10% efficient.
  • by ZaMoose (24734) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @05:44AM (#18953977)
    Lewis Black recently suggested a novel approach on The Daily Show - power cars on cognitive dissonance []. Celebrities weren't using those brain cells anyway, so any extra drag you put on 'em won't slow their hypocrisy down one bit. A win-win solution for everyone, actually...
  • Re:Drag? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @07:22AM (#18954449) Journal
    Not quite.

    The air moved around by the cars is being absorbed and dissipated anyway by the objects surrounding the road. All the turbines will do is instead of the airflow from the cars going to swish the surrounding grass, trees and bushes - it'll spin a turbine. The energy is already being absorbed by the surrounds of the road.

    It's like putting a turbine over a kettle - you won't cause the kettle to use more energy to boil the water by allowing the steam coming from it to pass through a turbine - you'll just extract some of the energy that otherwise would have been used up by the environment of the kettle.

    If it's designed correctly, it won't increase drag.
  • by gravij (685575) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @07:39AM (#18954561)

    Absolutely nothing to do with the New Jersey Turnpike in particular at all.

    Try again! You're right it's a modification to a Jersey Barrier, but this Jersey Barrier is in NJ on the New Jersey Turnpike.
    *New Jersey*, home of the eponymous Jersey barrier, is considering wind turbines powered by the breeze generated from traffic

    *New Jersey* highways to be used as a power source, Governor made an offer he couldn't refuse

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll