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Inventor Thinks Freeway Traffic Can Power Wind Turbines

February 22, 1994

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (AP) _ An inventor wants to tap the fast lanes for juice, turning the whoosh of traffic into the hum of electricity.

Thomas Wither, a computer consultant from suburban Detroit, has patented a windmill that would be turned by air currents created by passing highway traffic.

″I had read that the two biggest sources of pollution in America are cars and the utility industry. All of a sudden I thought: Why not use one to make clean energy for the other?″ he said.

Wither’s windmill hasn’t been road-tested yet. But, according to a Wayne State University research team, the wind is there for the taking.

Tests in October on a Southfield freeway median found wind speeds averaging 10 to 12 mph most of the day, with passing cars generating gusts averaging 15 mph and trucks stirring up 25-mph gusts.

″I think this proves there is harnessable power where you have this kind of steady traffic,″ said Mulchand Rathod, chairman of engineering technology at Wayne State and one of the researchers who took the measurements.

Conventional windmills can generate electricity with wind as slow as 9 mph.

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