I still get stopped on the street by people who ask what happened to the idea of using our roads to generate electricity.
Shortly after being elected, I had a conversation with a friend who had just returned from Israel. Expecting to hear emotional descriptions of religious sites, I was surprised to hear my friend rave instead about a road that produced energy.
After researching the issue, I found that engineers in Israel, Italy and Japan had successfully installed piezoelectric sensors underneath roadways and railways. The technique uses tiny devices that look like watch batteries, embedded in pavement, to recapture energy that would be otherwise lost as vehicles rumble along. The energy from the tiny vibrations can be converted into electricity to power roadside lights, call boxes, and neighboring communities.
In 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed AB 306, my bill that would have implemented two piezoelectric-pilot projects on California freeways. Undeterred, I asked the California Energy Commission (CEC) to study the issue. After years of research, the CEC announced it would be funding multiple piezoelectric pilot projects throughout California.
Piezoelectric technology has been used for years in sonar and electric guitars. In 2009, the East Japan Railway Company installed piezoelectric flooring in its Tokyo railway station, using the energy generated by passing pedestrians to power all displays in the station. Israel has already placed this technology under some highways, and Italy has signed a contract to place the technology under a stretch of the Venice-to-Trieste Autostrada. A dance club in San Francisco has even piloted the technology under its dance floor to run its lighting. Scientists estimate the energy generated from a 10-mile stretch of four-lane roadway can power the entire city of Burbank.
California is the car capitol of the world, and we recycle just about everything. So why not capture the energy from road vibrations, and put it to good use? Thanks to your support, we will be seeing this technology on our roads very soon.