Pavement is green, seriously

California may be known for its sunshine but its greatest source of green energy could be its unending streams of traffic, if a pilot study of generating power from the vibrations of cars on pavement proves true.

A Southern California lawmaker — naturally — wrote Assembly Bill 306, which calls for the research into using piezoelectric technology to generate energy. When a truck or car passes over pavement, according to Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, the pavement vibrates. When piezoelectric sensors are placed beneath the road, the vibrations can be converted to electricity.

Israel already does it and Italy has signed a contract to place the sensors on a stretch of the road to Venice.

The bill passed the Assembly 65-3.

What a great idea!

Read on for Gatto’s full news release.


JUNE 1, 2011

Few will argue that we don’t need more ways to create energy and to establish independence from foreign sources of energy.  Currently, one fourth of California’s greenhouse-gas production comes from the process of creating electricity and much of that happens with foreign fuels.  There have been tremendous strides this century in solar power, and wind and hydro remain favorites of the green-energy industry.  Now, California has an opportunity to pursue an intriguing new technology that would turn our roadways into power plants: piezoelectric technology.

Today, AB 306 by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) passed off the Assembly Floor by a 65-3 vote.  Under the bill, the California Energy Commission would research the possibility of using piezoelectric technology in roads and railways to generate green electricity and then work with Caltrans to pilot the technology.  The science works as follows:  When a car or truck passes over pavement, the pavement vibrates ever so slightly.  (You can feel these vibrations if you have ever stood on a road as a truck speeds by.)  By placing relatively inexpensive piezoelectric sensors underneath a road, the vibrations produced by vehicles can be converted into electricity, which can be used to power roadside lights, call boxes, and neighboring communities.  Identical technology has already been placed underneath highways in Israel, and Italy has signed a contract to place the technology under a stretch of the Venice-to-Trieste Autostrada.  The technology can be placed under asphalt during regularly scheduled repaving, and does not affect the vehicles traveling on the road, in terms of “road feel”, fuel efficiency, or emissions.

“California is the car-capitol of the world.  We have a chance here to generate power and revenue from one of our State’s greatest assets: our roads,” said Gatto.

Gatto’s bill taps into money already set aside for green-technology funding to ensure that no additional money is taken from the General Fund in this time of economic turmoil.  “This bill has the potential to create jobs and make our state more independent from outside sources of energy,” notes Gatto.  “This is technology that has been used for decades by the US Navy (albeit in a reverse loop) in sonar systems.  This bill allows us to look at moving forward with that legacy in a new direction.”

Mike Gatto is the Assistant Speaker Pro Tempore of the California State Assembly.  He represents the cities of Burbank, Glendale, and parts of Los Angeles, including Los Feliz, North Hollywood, Silver Lake, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, and Van Nuys.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen