California is putting $2 million into research to determine whether gridlock can be a beneficial source of electricity. The technology at the heart of the idea is piezoelectric crystals, which could turn mechanical energy from traffic into usable electricity that can be added to the power grid. The approach seeks to harness energy that is usually wasted, thus providing an additional source of renewable energy for the state’s residents.
The California Energy Commission is looking for a research facility to conduct small-scale tests on harnessing the energy that is currently being lost from vehicles traveling on the state’s roadways. Piezoelectricity uses naturally occurring crystals to capture heat generated from moving vehicles and convert it into electricity for any number of uses. The primary objective of the research will be to determine whether a cost-effective system can be installed to produce a substantial amount of energy.
“It’s not hard to see the opportunity in California,” said Mike Gravely, the commission’s deputy division chief of energy research and development. “It’s an energy that’s created but is just currently lost in vibration.”
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