Arizona State University (Joe)

  • anchor

    Here goes (please comment)

    By Joe
    Apr 11, '07 1:46 AM EST

    Ok, so here is my project this semester. I will post the description that I wrote to explain the project:

    Parasitic Catalyst
    Parasite- an organism that lives on or in an organism of another species, known as the host, from the body of which it obtains nutriment.
    Catalyst- something that causes activity between two or more persons or forces without itself being affected.

    The highway system that dissects Phoenix is expansive. While connecting 515 square miles of the Sonoran desert to support our sprawling culture, the valley freeways divide communities. My catalyst proposes to retroactively collect royalties on the land taken from social interaction. The design is a retrofitting replacement of the horizontal steel tube that currently holds freeway signage. The replacement will house two horizontal axis wind turbines (Quiet Revolution designs) that will be powered by the turbulence created from the passing cars.

    Average vehicle speeds on the valley highways are approximately 70 mph. Using average annual wind speeds of 10 mph as a baseline, each single wind turbine will produce 9,600KwH of energy, annually (enough to fully power my 700 s.f. apartment). This power production estimate will increase exponentially with an increase in wind turbulence speed. I believe that the wind stream created over the freeways by our primary mode of transportation will create an average annual wind speed well beyond the baseline of 10 mph.


    There are two ways in which the power could be used: supply the power directly to the grid to supplement current energy supply, or use the power locally to aid in producing a community hub for social interaction.

    The site I have chosen to initially deploy my catalyst is located near the intersection of State Route 51 and Osborn Road. The initial draw to this site was the observation of multiple intersections. These intersections include the Grand Canal, Piestewa Parkway(State route 51), and Osborn road. This place is a transportation hub for all modes of travel; pedestrians, bicyclists, water flow, and vehicular traffic move fluidly through the site. Given the heavy preference for the car, most of the land is allocated to that user group. Whatever is left over becomes undesired space left over for decomposed granite, Palo Verde trees and the nomadic homeless. Kids also use the space to fuel their desire to be outdoors. Trails of bicycle tire marks create striated textures in the decomposed granite mounds supporting the freeway overpass. Public bicycle trails/ recreation corridors following the two pieces of infrastructure also converge on the site.

    Analyzing the site from an aerial view, the applied grid upon which this city is built is apparent. The fascinating point about this site is the flowing shape that the two forms of infrastructure (canal and freeway) produce, ignoring the rules of the applied grid.

    As an important asset to the community, the canal system deserves more respect. It is the bloodline of the community. As such, we need to light and shade the canal. I believe that the power generated by the moving vehicles will benefit the community the best by providing these canal amenities.

    Here is the image I am working on to convey a canal system that becomes a community hub for both night and daytime. It features a sail shade structure that lights up at night. If you have ever been to Phoenix in the summer, you know that it burns! Shade from the day and light for the night could be the initial catalyst to make this place used.

    The mounds that are built up to support the freeway are perfect audience seating for performance viewing.

    Another important aspect to the project includes the notion of social justice. By mixing programs, (i.e.-homeless shelter, skate park, recreation path, communities would interact. (I know, it sounds cliche) Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks for sticking in there and reading.


    • Eduardo

      dude am in the middle of a crit, but, the idea of harvesting energy from wind generated by burning fosil fuel, sounds interesting. It remineds me of Wave Graden by Yusuke Obuchi. The interesting thing with these sort of projects always, is not so much the cleverness of the machine/technique/technology, but the actual all around, you could say "ecology" the interaction between the actors, electricity/wind/car/fuel. And more on focusing on the cleverness of a technology ( which is invented by somebody else) it is more interesting to set up and interesting relation between the actors. Cause, it is worthy to gain electricity out of cars burning fosil fuels, but it would be more interesting that ur device actually promotes or rewards these people for NOT burning the stuff, again check out Obuchi's wave garden.....

      Apr 11, 07 5:01 pm  · 

      funny i had the same thought, and the same reaction. yusuke's project was particularly good because it was both architecture and energy production device. oh, and very cool too. i loved his model.

      Apr 11, 07 7:38 pm  · 

      Word Jump. I mean the tricky part is always to engage architecture in societies issues Not letting the techonolgy take over, but rather take over the technology.

      On another note, I just came up from a Zaera-Polo lecture, I have to say it was one of the most boring lectures of the year, I left mi-way, cause my neck hurt of dozing off so much. He has 2 more scheduled lectures in a row( wed/thurs/fri).......Lets see how that turns out. Wait, everyone is starting to come up! sees like he is going to finish the lecture by himself....

      Apr 11, 07 7:50 pm  · 
      Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

      Hang on... the power will be generated by increasing aerodynamic drag on the cars (Newton's third law), resulting in increases in fuel consumption. Hence, your power station will actually be powered by petrol.

      Apr 12, 07 12:57 am  · 

      What about the effect of the heat of the tarmac rising and driving the turbines? I like the idea though... what about the integration of solar panels onto the propeller arms?

      Apr 12, 07 1:08 am  · 
      Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

      I was actually talking about this with a student thee other day. I think you would have to demonstrate that you were somehow harnessing the inefficiency of the vehicles, and not just stealing power from them. Harnessing heat off the tarmac, especially in AZ, could work.

      Apr 12, 07 1:31 am  · 

      Has this type of turbine been "road tested?" This is the second or third application of turbines harnessing the wake of passing cars...though I would imagine that cars produce complex turbulance as they pass. I suppose your project is not so much about the complexities of the turbines, but how your space relates to the road/turbines, etc.

      Apr 12, 07 8:58 am  · 

      there is one that uses this method in a modified "jersey curb" along high speed roadways...great thinking though.

      Apr 12, 07 3:39 pm  · 

      Thanks for all of the comments. I was directed to that "jersey curb" project by a classmate after I proposed this. The New Jersey barrier by Mark Oberholzer as featured in Metropolis magazine operates on the same principle. I also found some studies by a Canadian University that were testing some of the same theories, but I can't find their test results. I think it might be worth some investigation. The complexities of automobile turbulence is definitely out of my league. I would love to do the research, though.

      The idea of stealing energy from cars has a "rob Peter to pay Paul" effect. It will take some time to extract cars from our culture. While they are here, maybe we could get some use out of them (other than pure transportation). Thanks again for the comments.

      Apr 12, 07 11:48 pm  · 

      Hi Joe-

      Without understanding much of the engineering details behind this project, and the pros and cons of using automobile turbulence, i have to say this is an amazing idea. Well done - I'd love to see where you go with this.

      Best wishes-

      Apr 14, 07 6:50 pm  · 


      This is very cool.

      I was in Nagoya, Japan in 2004 and noticed something similar on Japanese highways.

      Except the turbines were on the sides of the road instead of the top.

      How do you think the placing of the turbines would effect energy collection???

      Sep 6, 07 7:48 pm  · 

      Hi Joe,
      hope you are doing well. Here is an answer from Europe.
      I just ended up on your post by chance while surfing, and got attracted by the idea.
      I have some experience with energy and with transportation (motorways), and thought this may interest companies from either sides seeking their next green initiative.
      I have 3 questions for you:
      1. At the date, is there any turbine-portal tested or working? even just samples...?
      2. Where is the production estimate coming from? Does it refer to a generic turbine or exactly to the kind featured in the picture?
      3. Have you presented this idea to anyone in business/technical environment, e.g. a motorway company or a municipality office? Had any feedback from any expert, on top of the ones posted above?

      I hope you can find some time to satisfy my curiosity.
      I'd really appreciate to read from you, especially since the idea may be promising business-wise, if proved working and safe.

      Nov 21, 07 3:53 pm  · 

      Interesting project, but you have to determine whether this is feasible or not. For example, how many years it will take each turbine to produce any return on investment = the construction cost of each turbine divided by the cost of 9,600kwh (yearly output).

      Let's assume: Estimated cost of each turbine system installed (includes two turbines as in your picture) = $10,000 divided by energy output 9,600KWH x $0.10 (approx. cost of one KWH in US). This is $10,000 / $960 = 10.4 years. In other words it will take 10.4 years to recoup the initial investment without considering lifecycle costs for maintenance. Also, if the expected useful life of each system is only 20 years, each system will provide a return of $9,216 in the 20 years, which represents an average of $460.8 per year at the end of the 20 years, also equivalent to 4.6% annual return on investment (excludes inflation). If you consider these assumptions, this project is not economically feasible given that you would be better off investing in the stock market getting a higher return over the long term.

      In conclusion, these systems should not cost more than around $5,000 each, but I don't think this is a realistic cost.

      Probably you should think of similar arrangements of turbines to reduce construction costs and see what are the potential effects of having turbines placed together along several rows.

      If you are able to answer these questions you should patent your idea.

      Mar 28, 08 10:10 am  · 

      Answering this:

      The idea of stealing energy from cars has a "rob Peter to pay Paul" effect. It will take some time to extract cars from our culture. While they are here, maybe we could get some use out of them (other than pure transportation). Thanks again for the comments.
      Posted by: Joe on Apr 12, 07 | 8:48 pm

      I'm sorry, but i think that this is an infantile argument to maintain this complex project.

      If the efficiency were 100%, this would be only a way to collect taxes (other way to "rob Peter to pay Paul", if I understand well your language) from fuel, but to collect taxes is much cheaper and easier.

      As efficiency wouldn't be 100%, you would be contributing to make a bad use of energy sources.


      Mar 28, 08 4:00 pm  · 

      I considdered an idea similar to this while I was in my early teens.. Seems like a great idea but honestly Over time cars will become more aerodynamic and produce less drag. In turn creating less turbulence (wind). Before embarking on a project like this I would advise taking measurements of "wind" at the height you intend on installing the turbines.

      This design May benefit from hot air rising off the heated roadway.

      Aug 25, 08 1:10 pm  · 

      I considdered an idea similar to this while I was in my early teens.. Seems like a great idea but honestly Over time cars will become more aerodynamic and produce less drag. In turn creating less turbulence (wind). Before embarking on a project like this I would advise taking measurements of "wind" at the height you intend on installing the turbines.

      This design May benefit from hot air rising off the heated roadway.

      Aug 25, 08 1:10 pm  · 

      Hi Joe

      I think the idea of a catalyst turbine is a brilliant idea, and I think this should be followed through despite what some of the pessimists out there have to say - whether it be on Newton's third rule (Hell you're going to get resistance on your car from passing any obstacle for that matter), or the heating of the tarmac from the turbine shafts - If that isthe case, you could get around that issue by doing some homework on various materials for your turbine that will improve heat retention. For the shuttle is covered in ceramic tiles to prevent it form burning up when entering the atmosphere and I've come across a patent some where along the way - which can be used in the treatment for improving heat retention in cementitious or similar roadway compositions

      We can all say "but this" and "but that", but if we don't get a move on and come up with the ideas like you have just done and put them into practice, we just might NOT have a planet to live in one day.


      Feb 20, 09 4:38 am  · 

      Why would someone Copy my post?

      May 20, 09 11:13 am  · 

      It would make more sense to develope new energy sources rather than depending on fossil fuels.. Thie idea is so inefficient that It would be a waste of resources to build.

      This just is not feasible.

      May 21, 09 5:02 pm  · 

      hey joe,

      three years since you have presented us with this idea. how about an update ? ? ?

      Jun 20, 10 6:38 pm  · 

      The Department of Energy (USA) has all kinds of projects/funding opportunities for brilliant ideas like this, I do hope you submit it if you haven't already.  I think it is wonderful.  I am sharing on my Canadian Facebook page.  Think its a very inspiring idea - perhaps our hiway/energy people will hire you to transform our hiways into energy portals.

      Dec 18, 17 2:24 pm  · 

      Block this user

      Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

    • Back to Entry List...
  • ×Search in:

Affiliated with:

Authored by:

  • Joe

Other blogs affiliated with Arizona State University:

Recent Entries