Using $2 million in research funding from the California Public Utilities Commission, the state’s energy commission has begun research to determine the feasibility of whether the vibrations of cars driving over roads could be a viable energy source in the future. Called piezoelectric energy harvesting, the system uses crystalline structures that generate a charge when their shape is warped, as would happen with road vibrations. The electricity transmitted through wires embedded in roadways could then be used to power everything from roadside lights to household refrigerators. The amount of electricity such a system could generate depends heavily on frequency and type of traffic, although one vendor claims it’s possible to achieve a capacity of 13.6 megawatts per kilometer of road. After some theoretical number-crunching, the California Energy Commission believes the levelized cost of piezoelectric energy could be between 8 and 18 cents per kilowatt-hour, with the lower end of the range possibly being able to compete with established fuels such as natural gas.

– via Future Structure

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