Harnessing natural wind energy is tricky. Traditional turbine installations are limited to large patches of land, such as farms, or close to oceans, where sounds of the turning gears are cancelled out by persistent waves crashing on the shore.
According to a study from Kingston University in London, another place, much closer to civilization, could hold ideal conditions for wind turbines to thrive.
Viaducts, or bridges composed of several arches that connect two points, might provide the necessary foundation and a steady stream of breezy weather needed to support large wind machines. The new findings may help increase wind energy adoption worldwide. For such urban structures, a specific design must be applied that deviates from the conventional matrix of turbines, usually composed of 24-30 small units.
“As natural, the more surface is swiped by the rotor, the more power can be produced; however, it was seen that in small turbines the power rate per square meter is higher,” said Oscar Soto, a researcher affiliated with the study.
He also suggested that two identical, medium-sized turbines would be optimal for viaducts. The group of scientists responsible for the concept based their conclusions on models and computerized calculations. Taking the Juncal Viaduct in Gran Canaria as a reference, the team calculated that two machines would be able to produce a total of 0.5 MW, placing it well into the medium-power range.
“This would be the equivalent to 450-500 homes average consumption,” confirmed Soto. “This kind of installation would avoid the emission of 140 tons of CO2 per year, an amount that represents the depuration effect of about 7.200 trees.”
Bringing Wind Energy to the Mainstream
When it comes to space-saving advantages, solar energy solutions are far ahead of clunky wind turbines. UV panels can be installed on rooftops, backyards and parks. Because of this, the solar movement is currently the top choice for most urban dwellers. It’s only in the rural areas where individuals would consider setting up natural hydro-electricity systems over streams and wind energy machines become a viable option over solar farms.
But now, through the installation of wind turbines in viaducts, areas with limited space can look into taking their energy conservation efforts one step further. Large wind motors can be fitted under existing structures and only need slight modifications to complete the transition. More importantly the flow of the city is not disrupted.
The Solar Wind Concept
Five years ago, a similar project surfaced during a contest for the repurpose of viaducts in Calabria, Italy. Instead of demolishing the iconic monuments, which would cost a whopping $55 million, the town held an event that allowed designers to submit innovative construction plans.
Francesco Colarossi, Giovanna Saracino and Luisa Saracino, the team responsible for the idea, submitted a concept using 26 wind turbines fitted under the bridge. The proposal also included solar panels on the roads and eco-friendly parks, turning the entire viaduct into a sustainable garden sanctuary. At full capacity, both energy-saving methods would be able to generate enough power for 15,000 homes (40 million kWh annually).