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What Can A Speed Bump Do for the Power Grid?

motionpower_speed_bumpThe Burger King on U.S. Highway 22 in Hillside, N.J., looks no different from any other franchise in the state. Customers pull in and out all day, and at least 100,000 cars visit the drive-thru each year. And now a newly installed, mechanized speed bump will both help them slow down and harvest some of that coasting energy.

“We use the weight of a car to throw a lever,” explains Gerard Lynch, the engineer behind the MotionPower system developed for New Energy Technologies, a Maryland-based company. “The instantaneous power is 2,000 watts at five miles-per-hour, but it’s instantaneous which means some form of storage will be required. The real key is how do I get a million cars to do that for me.”

This demonstration project won’t actually provide electricity to either the Burger King or the grid, but it will employ a mini-flywheel—a mechanical device that stores energy by spinning—to test storage potential. A higher price can be charged for electricity that is fed into the grid at the right moment.

“How do we capture and hold these pulses efficiently so we can dispatch them at the right time when the electricity rate is most advantageous,” Lynch says. “Here in Hillside, the average price when you take delivery is 17.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. It’s double that in peak summer. The idea is: let’s hit it all day and return that power at 3 PM in the afternoon.”

Read more from Scientific American.

September 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment