June 10, 2010

“It’s a billboard of hope for our children,” declares Gene Fein, a Malibu, California–based inventor who is marketing a suite of technologies, dubbed the Green Roadway, which is intended to transform highway rights-of-way into power plants.

linear city oregon interstate

Fein and his business partner, Ed Merrit, started looking at roadways as a source of underutilized land about six years ago, when “no one was thinking that way,” and have been dreaming up inventions such as a “solar and wind hybrid sheet,” a photovoltaic collector dotted with tiny wind turbines. “By tiny, I mean potentially microscale,” says Fein, who insists that wee turbines are as efficient as massive ones.

One idea is that power generated along an interstate highway could be used on site by electric vehicles and eliminate the need for long-distance transmission lines. Fein has licensed his technology to a number of firms, including Portland General Electric (PGE). Meanwhile, without Fein’s help, PGE has placed a 104-kilowatt solar array along I-5 in Oregon and has more such projects in the works. And though there are currently no roadside arrays of tiny turbines, drivers will soon notice a 400-foot-tall, 1.5-megawatt windmill at the Blandford rest area of the Massachusetts turnpike.

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