What if we lit our streets using the air displaced by passing cars?

Posted on 15 January 2019.

An innovative idea from a young French engineer: using the principle of wind energy, his Heolios street light uses the air displaced by passing cars to produce 100% green energy.

Have you ever noticed that when a car goes past it creates a very strong movement of air? The power in the air moved by a car traveling at 100 km / h is actually around 1 to 1.5 kWh. The equivalent of lighting a home for a whole day!

Antoine Leblanc, a young French engineer and "smart city" enthusiast, came up with the idea of recovering it to produce electricity. His concept: a street light that – using the wind energy principle - would transform the movement of air caused by passing vehicles into energy. And then use this green energy to power public street lighting.
So how does it work? The Heolios street light consists of two small vertical wind turbines fitted on its base. Given their aerodynamic shape - designed to optimize air flow - they start moving even if the average speed, and therefore the air displaced by the vehicles, is low.
To maximize energy output, there is also a solar panel at the top of the lamppost. The energy recovered throughout the day from the sun and wind is stored in the lamppost itself.
With this system Antoine Leblanc reckons that each street light could produce up to 12 kWh per day. 

Of course, energy production will depend on traffic, average vehicle speed and the amount of sunshine. The ideal would therefore be to install these new street lights along national roads and highways, where traffic is denser and vehicle speeds are higher.
It would even be possible to put them alongside railways in order to use the air displaced by high speed trains and trams. Turning roadsides, and even railways, into local power plants is a very attractive idea.

Reducing energy bills for cities

The idea is still in the project phase, but with the help of a partner company Antoine Leblanc hopes to be able to produce a prototype very soon. The young engineer wants to be able to market this innovative solution to local authorities, and so offer them a simple way of introducing renewable energy production into the heart of cities.
Another argument: it also promises energy savings for municipalities whose facilities are becoming obsolete75% are over 25 years old – which often translates as wasteful energy consumption. An interesting prospect given that public lighting costs over 2 billion euros a year in France.