Government Technology

Can Wind and Solar Energy Power Traffic Lights?

University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers are testing the viability of traffic signals that are powered by wind and solar power.

April 12, 2011 By

A research team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is preparing to begin the second stage of a three-year green energy pilot project that’s researching the viability of integrating wind and solar power into a municipal power grid to power traffic and street lights.

Funded by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the project is called Energy Plus Roadways. Those involved hope to develop a smart grid system for roadway infrastructure that will prove practical for widespread, large-scale use.

The end goal is negative energy consumption, said Anuj Sharma, a UNL assistant professor of civil engineering. In other words, more energy would be produced by the municipal grid than is consumed. Ideally a smart grid system would generate enough renewable energy to power all the traffic and street lights in the city and still have some left over to sell back to the power companies.

“That’s where the name Energy Plus Roadways comes from,” Sharma said.

The second phase of the project, scheduled to begin in May, involves developing the electronic control system that would allow a network of wind and solar power generators to intelligently distribute electricity where it’s needed, said Jerry Hudgins, the project’s leader and also a professor of electrical engineering at UNL. The team will run simulations to test how such a system could adapt to power grids of different sizes and layouts.
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Bob Kersteen    |    Commented April 13, 2011

Is a copy of the study available for anyone including me? If a copy is available I would like a copy sent to: Bob Kersteen Chair - Agency on Bay Management 2821 61st Lane North St. Petersburg, FL 33710-3357

Matt Williams, Associate Editor    |    Commented April 13, 2011

Bob, I think the best place to look for contact information is the project's website: Good luck!

Margaret    |    Commented April 13, 2011

Great, but wouldn't it be even better if they made the transmission outside the existing power lines so that the lights would be more likely to keep operating if there were a local power outage?

Ralph    |    Commented April 15, 2011

I hope this study has good results, however the cost/benefit ratio at this time may not be anywhere close to reasonable. The City Of Reno has a real time site that gives live data of energy produced by various types of solar panels and wind generators. The results aren't good, particularily for wind generators. I hope the wind is more reliable in Nebraska. 1 Million dollars can go a long way in paying the electric costs of Traffic Lights, epecially if they are retrofitted with LED Lights.

Keely Thomas-Moore    |    Commented July 23, 2012

I think this sounds like an awesome project with a lot of applications if the study ends up succeeding. I feel like it could save local governments - and taxpayers - a lot of money. I've heard of things like solar lamp posts before, so I feel like this could really work out. My fingers are crossed! ( )

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