A new trend in the green energy field is to design bridges that besides serving as a way of communication between two places are generating power from renewable resources. This kind of bridges is called energy generating bridges and they combine solar and wind energy sources.
Bridges are exposed to a generally high dose of sunlight and crosswinds and for this reason they could be considered useful and sustainable. But, on the other hand, the idea remains a concept waiting to be optimized and built because it represents challenge for both engineers and architects.
The Solar Wind concept, proposed by Italian designers, would have solar cells embedded in the road surface and wind turbines between the pillars. Traditional asphalt is replaced with 20 km of solar cells grid with a transparent plastic coating. This system (according to the designers) combined with 26 wind turbines would provide power to 15,000 homes, generating approximately 36 million kWh per year.
For this system to work the position of the bridge has to be at a high altitude and in an open space so it gets both sunlight and wind.
Building an energy generating bridge involves two main advantages: cost savings and space savings. Having them would minimize the land loss generated by other projects that need a lot of space in order to function. Moreover, if the same construction combines transportation and energy production it means people save a lot of money in construction and maintenance. It is far easier to take care of a “green bridge” than a bridge, a solar power plant and several wind mills.
The Solar Wind concept is the most realistic and easy to build with the current technology. If you thought that was almost impossible to put in practice, take a look at the following concepts which I find totally mind-blowing!
The design proposed by Chetwood Architects would generate renewable energy using solar panels and wind turbines. Also it would produce organic food using a vertical farm.
This bridge would have numerous solar panels installed and the energy produced would be used in the city and also in the different facilities built in the bridge itself, such as a museum, a library or a shopping center. The bridge has also springs for boat “parking”.
This concept is using only wind energy. It produces electricity using approximately 2,000 light panels that rotate with the wind. It will be built entirely from recycled steel and the designed is based on a beam system so the speed of the wind crossing the bridge increases. This one is the winner in my opinion, because the concept could change the perspective of how we use wind power nowadays.
All these energy bridge concepts are very well designed and they could become reality any day now, we are just waiting for a little more technology advance and some passionate engineers.