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The Interstate Wind Dilemma

written by: Matt Isaac•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 7/23/2010

In a stroke of genius, innovators have come up with designs to power our country by exploiting the traffic on our nations highways. Will these fresh new ideas change the landscape of American electricity production?

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    Using Freeways as Energy Sources

    With the Republicans kicking and screaming as they are dragged along, it seems like the Untied States is finally trying to make some forward progress in alternative energies. The desire to live off the grid has exploded and everyone is wanting to become a part of the trendy new solution to world destruction and fossil-fuel dependency. Many Americans now see that these new technologies not only shrink their environmental footprint but also saves them some cold hard cash in the process. This revelation has brought green living many new converts over the last several years, but without widespread cooperation from the private, corporate, and federal level, change may be too slow to come. Let's face it, we can't just wait around until everyone has the money to buy an electric car and put solar panels on their roof. Perhaps it is time to start exploiting some of the United States unnatural, renewable resources.

    One must look no further than the daily commute to work to discover one of our nation's greatest, untapped resources. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the United States currently has over 45,000 miles of interstate highways hosting millions of travelers each day. Besides the countless tons of pollutants being spilled out of these vehicles' collective tail pipes, the freeway traffic has one other commonly created resource; wind turbulence. As these vehicles barrel down our nation's highways, at nearly 70 mph, they displace the air around them causing air currents that could be harnessed by wind turbines located in the medians. Our roads could one day be lined with millions of these small, vertical-axis wind turbines turning what is currently a black stain on environmentalism into a serious hope for the future. This nearly free, clean energy could be a major factor in easing the national dependency on fossil fuels as well as power millions of homes and businesses around the country.

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    The Reality of Wind Turbines on Roads

    With the American wind energy industry growing at an exponential rate, this type of solution seems like a real possibility. At this point though, a possibility is all it is. President Obama has expressed great interest in boosting our off-shore wind projects, though. His envisions an America that would harvest up to twenty percent of it's power from these off-shore turbines in the next few decades. While this is a great step in the right direction, it seems like we are missing the resource that is right underneath our nose. Why spend, possibly, billions of dollars in additional expenses to ship and construct wind turbines off-shore, when we could first utilize our own interstate system? This system, located right here at home, already comes with it's own highly organized construction and electrical professionals who would require minimal training to adapt to this new project. Besides the obvious power benefits, it would also create numerous jobs in the construction and power industries positively affecting thousands of people even before the system could be used.

    So what is the problem? Why aren't we seeing these turbines popping up along our nations roads? It is not for lack of design or interest. One must only perform a query on their favorite search engine to see designs, by colleges and innovators world-wide, to harness this power. With so much interest in these expensive off-shore projects, it also seems unlikely that funding is the problem. If I were to venture a guess, it would be America's current lack of interest in small business and innovation. We only seem to care about the entertainment value of these individuals, herding them into competitions and reality shows so we can ogle at their "cuteness". We would rather put our trust in the massive enterprises that have put us in these tricky situations in the first place. The same corporations who are willing to pay off your politicians to change the law in their favor. Or perhaps it is the certain political parties on the corporate payroll that see change like a scary monster in their closet. And while these folks should be held responsible for the problems they caused, they may not hold the answers that we need.

    Turning our humdrum day-to-day activities into serious power generation is no less than a stroke of genius. As Americans it is time to start putting some trust in these out-of-the-box designs (like using asphalt solar collectors) and not taking 'no' as an answer. Businesses and politicians are not going to change unless the public opinion does first. If we cry out, they will have to listen, and It's time to tell them that systems like highway wind power could give our country hope for an already dim future.