Greetings. Innovation often means standing conventional wisdom on its head. And sometimes that implies turning difficult problems into remarkable solutions. We all know that the U.S. transportation system, with its over-dependence on roads and private automobiles, is a costly and energy-sucking way to get around. Not to mention the great expense of maintaining the physical infrastructure. But the very clever folks at Oom Avenhorn Groep, an engineering firm based in the Netherlands, have used their collective genius to come up with a unique option. Why not create roads that actually generate energy?
And that's exactly what their "Road Energy Systems" solution does. But since I'm not an engineer, I'll let them describe it in their own words:
"Road Energy Systems consists of a layer of asphalt that has a closed system of pipes running through it. The pipes are connected to underground aquifers (water-bearing sand). In summer the sun heats the asphalt pavement, which in turn raises the temperature of the water in the pipes. The water is then transported to the heat source area, where it is stored for several months. As soon as autumn arrives, the system brings the warm water to the surface, where a heat pump raises its temperature to a level suitable for low temperature heating systems. The surplus thermal energy is used to keep the temperature of the asphalt above the freezing point. The asphalt cools the water to the point where it can eventually flow to the cold source. In summer the process is reversed. Water is pumped from the cold source and used to cool buildings."
And here's a picture of how it works…
You can learn about other innovative ways to rethink our aging infrastructure in the latest issue of Popular Science, a wonderful magazine for keeping up on a world of new ideas and technologies.
We win in business and the public sector by taking a fresh look at our most pressing problems. Maybe the road to good intentions is paved with energy. And maybe your biggest liabilities are really assets in disguise.