Power up with highway traffic

VERONA (Italy) - Ever stopped on the emergency lane on the motorway and felt your car being jolted by lorries driving past?

It is the result of large volumes of air being displaced by the trucks, which are voracious consumers of petrol resources.

One evening three years ago, a Tuscan engineer, a Milanese manager and a businessman from Verona came up with an idea: Recycle that wasted energy, using wind turbines on the roadside.

That idea gave rise to the start-up Atea, which includes Mr Stefano Sciurpa, Mr Gianluca Gennai and Mr Giovanni Favalli.

"We realised that lorries move considerable masses of air, and that the numbers at stake are about the same as those found in the big wind power stations in the south," explains Mr Sciurpa.

Atea has installed a prototype near the Desenzano del Garda exit of the A4 motorway heading towards Venice.

The 3m-tall turbine produces 3MWh of electricity - about the amount consumed by the average family of four people living in an 80 sq m flat.

Atea's "Air Fighter" boasts advantages over the huge windmills installed elsewhere. For a start, it produces energy regardless of weather conditions, through the day and night. Maintenance costs are also lower.

Atea's next aim: to create a motorway wind power park with at least 10 turbines connected in a network.

That would mark a great victory for Mr Sciurpa and his colleagues, a step forward towards a more eco-sustainable future for Italy.