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CI3 conduct a study on implementing renewable energy on highways

31/07/2015

The Centre for Intelligent Infrastructure Innovation (CI3), through a contract with CIRCE, research centre belonging to the University of Zaragoza, has conducted applied research work called "ESPHERA", which is the Spanish acronym for "Study on Production Systems and Harvesting of Renewable Energy on Highways".

The main objective of ESPHERA has been to study the feasibility of integrating new forms of renewable energy on highways to meet the energy demand of highways for certain electrical devices, including tolling and ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems). Descripción de la imagen

In addition to the project supervisor of the Innovation and Processes Department, engineers from the Cintra Concessional Services Division and ARAVIA, concessionaire for the maintenance of the A2 near Zaragoza, participated in defining requirements and evaluating the results of the study.

The study was divided into, on the one hand, analysing and recording energy consumption of ITS and toll equipment likely to be powered by renewable energy; the state of art of the different existing systems applicable to such renewable technologies and finally, a feasibility study and creation of a guide to generic cases of power supply to the ITS systems and toll highways.

In addition to analysing existing and consolidated renewable energy sources, such as photovoltaic solar, wind and geothermal, innovative systems were also studied such as VORTEX, which obtains energy through the swinging movement of a a pole, i-BUMP based on a sleeping policemen mechanism through which energy is obtained from the motion of a fluid that moves as the wheels of SRECC vehicles go past a pickup base, among other examples.

"Energy Harvesting" systems have also been studied, consisting of devices picking up a small amount of power, based on piezoelectric sensors, solar energy, electromagnetic radiation or thermal energy. These are only viable for feeding low consumption equipment, such as wireless sensors or small electronic components.

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The VORTEX BLADELESS device is the one that has aroused most interest due to its innovative and revolutionary nature. It is based on a post that swings through the effect of the wind and generates electricity through a set of magnets on the pole base. The device is in an advanced stage of development.

A feasibility study of the different options has been conducted to have a reference so we can include these technologies in future bidding documentation, in order to meet the new efficiency and sustainability requirements of tenders and gain a competitive advantage.

The following conclusions can be drawn from the results of the ESPHERA study:

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    • Today "classic" technologies are more efficient because of their maturity and even more if they are combined creating hybrids. 
    • Installing self-consumption systems is recommended for relatively high consumption facilities such as rest areas and toll plazas, but the law does not presently provide for creating these types of facilities.

After completing this study, the possibility of testing the VORTEX system on a stretch of highway managed by the group's concessionaires after a few months will be assessed in order to extract concrete results and study the possibility of extending this technology to other areas.

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