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California Wants to Turn Its Notorious Traffic Into Renewable Energy via Piezoelectricity

Apr 20, 2017 05:42 AM EDT

The state of California is transforming its infamous traffic jams into opportunities to harness renewable energy. 

According to a report from San Francisco Chronicle, state officials will be funding an initiative to generate renewable electrical power from the road vibrations of California traffic.

Turning mechanical force into electricity isn't anything new, and science is inching into using similar technologies to produce power from sidewalks, runways and even nightclubs.

It has yet to be proven how this technology will work when applied to a large-scale plan. But the extent of traffic in California -- which is often a headache for commuters -- has great potential in generating a large amount of energy.

"There's a lot of traffic in California and a lot of vibration that just goes into the atmosphere as heat," Mike Gravely, a senior electrical engineer and head of the research division at the California Energy Commission, pointed out. "We can capture that. The technology has been successfully demonstrated."

Dubbed as piezoelectricity -- "piezo" is Greek for "press," a reference to creating power from pressure -- the science should be boosted with adequate support from the state. Two independent projects, costing $2.3 million, are envisioned to test the potential of piezoelectricity.

Within two to three years, the state should know whether it's a good idea to pursue piezoelectricity long term. Success will go a long way in achieving the state's target of renewable energy, accounting for at least half of California's power by 2030.

"The ultimate goal for us is to move this to a commercially viable product," Gravely explained. "As you drive down the road to San Francisco, you'd see them on the side of the road. Just think about the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown traffic on Highway 101."

Meanwhile in Israel, energy company Innowattech also initiated a similar project to turn traffic into energy in 2009, a report from Reuters said.

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