In finding new ways of making energy, I’m always impressed by someone who analyses something that already exists, and builds upon it. In that vein, here’s a really inspirational vision from recent graduate of Arizona State University, Joe De La Ree. Realising that cars travelling on fast-flowing roads create turbulence and generate wind, he has devised a scheme whereby the existing horizontal tubes that form the frames carrying freeway signage could be replaced by turbines, harnessing the wind produced by the traffic.

The average speed of vehicles on the freeway is 70mph, which he calculates could generate 9,600 kilowatt-hours a year. This isn’t the kind of amount that will change the world overnight – Joe reckons it would supply his apartment for a year. The economic calculations are not particularly attractive either, since the current cost of this amount of electricity is only about $800 – not a particularly good return on the $48,000 cost of installing the turbine. However, new ideas are often not financially viable initially, and technology prices fall with time.


What is really impressive about his idea, however, is the cleverness of his thinking with regard to the best use of this power, and most efficient delivery. Considering a prototype site for his scheme, he has chosen a highway in Phoenix, Arizona that is at the intersection of two busy roads including State Route 51, which follows the path of the Grand Central Canal at that point. As he observes, the Canal is an important bloodline of the city, and with shade during the day and lighting at night could be a safe and vibrant centre for the community. By observing that the Canal and Route 51 alone cut through the otherwise grid-built city, De La Ree sees the freeway as a natural power source for the regeneration of the canal.


Joe is currently looking for backers, and I wish him the very best of luck.



  1. 1 joyangel123 September 12, 2007 at 11:48 pm

    It’s amazing. Energy is all around us. we just have to learn to harness it. But is harness power from the turbulence and wind of a car outweigh the pollution emitted from these same vechicles.


  2. 2 HomelessOnWheels September 13, 2007 at 7:47 am

    I wonder if something like that could be used to power electrical and electronic gadgetry along the freeway (lights, webcams, traffic flow monitors, programmable signage)? Smaller and therefore possibly less expensive turbines might be used, and in addition to ofsetting the cost of the electricity, it also simplifies the task of delivering it. An appropriately sized turbine could be placed at each sign, light, camera, or other gadget.

    Of course in Arizona, sunlight is abundant, and solar panels are often used for such things, especially outside of the city. Still, the turbines sound like a great idea, and would be especially good at points further north that are less favorable for solar, especially in the winter months.

  3. 3 Mike September 24, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    I love the concept but wonder how much power these turbines would generate if placed over a typical motorway in the UK during rush hour. I understand that, on a good day, speeds can reach almost 10 mph.

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