Amber Plante for Zondits, August 7, 2015. Image credit: New Italian Blood
The Renaissance, seen as the bridge between medieval and modern times, originated as a cultural movement in Italy in the 14th century. It’s fitting, then, that Italy stands at the forefront of another bridge – a literal one that could bring together solar and wind energy to help power the world of tomorrow.
The Solar Wind concept proposes resurfacing the top of an existing southern Italy viaduct with solar panels and suspending twenty-four wind turbines between the viaduct’s pillars. Designed by Italian urban architecture firm COffice, the effort joins the two forms of alternative power production in a futuristic environmental model that experts say could generate up to 36 million kWh of electricity per year.
British researchers are taking the model a bit further: Using the existing Juncal Viaduct to Spain’s Gran Canaria, one of its Canary Islands, the researchers propose constructing wind turbines between the bridge’s supporting beams, thus not only allowing through-traffic to continue flowing on top but using the existing structure below to produce energy for the tourist-friendly island of nearly 800,000 permanent residents. According to figures, the installation could generate enough to power 500 homes in the archipelago – not a small feat, as some of the islands are off the grid.
This energy renaissance is still in the planning stages as engineers study the effects of the overhead traffic’s weight and vibrations on the turbines and the feasibility of one, two, or up to twenty-four individual turbines to generate the most power. But, as more and more land is allocated around the world to wind and solar farms (see: North Carolina Harnesses Gusts of Support with Region’s First Turbine Farm), the idea of reusing resources and building upon existing structures is certainly showing its merits.