University of Nebraska-Lincoln to test zero-energy traffic signals

Field tests will assess economic benefits, driver reactions

Transportation Management News Government Technology April 23, 2012
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Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will begin testing a system of wind- and solar-powered traffic signals this June, according to Government Technology magazine. Testing will focus on the economic feasibility of the system and whether it would be a distraction to drivers.


Known as Energy Plus Roadways, the project has been funded through a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The goal is to see how the system and its accompanying smart grid would act in tandem with the existing power infrastructure. Real-world testing is the third and final phase of the three-year endeavor, which is scheduled for completion in April 2013.


Driver reactions will be measured via software simulations and field tests. For the field tests, researchers will compare how long it takes drivers to go through an intersection once the light turns green, comparing a turbine-powered intersection with a standard one. The simulations will look at factors such as the subject’s gaze and heart rate.


With this system in place, cities would be able to sell electricity back to the power company to offset the cost of the new signals. Research into the “break even” point has varied among locations, including 9.6 years in Nebraska, 7.7 years at a test site in New York and 5.7 years at a site in Hawaii. 


The system’s battery packs would provide the other major benefit, as they could be used for backup power during an outage or disruption.

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