We are working with a company called Capture Mobility. It has invented a wind turbine that harvests the energy of moving air created by passing traffic on busy roads and motorways and turns it into electricity. The turbines are topped with solar panels to add to the power generated. The turbines also contain air filters to absorb pollution from traffic emissions. We are collaborating with Capture Mobility to help install turbines along a busy stretch of road and help to capture the energy for use in a local community. 

A roadside wind turbine capturing energy

With nearly two billion cars in the world, it’s clear traditional vehicles aren’t going away anytime soon. Capture Mobility could use its turbines to harvest air movement created by vehicles to supplement local power grids, thereby recycling automotive energy and offsetting emissions from vehicles.

With an expanding population expected to surpass 9 billion by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world will need to roughly double its energy supply by mid-century, and focus on fostering clean sources of power. Simply growing the grid won’t do; with future economic and population growth concentrated in developing countries, new infrastructure will often be built in areas without reliable access to power today (a quarter of India’s surging population can’t reliably access electricity).

It’s an unprecedented clean energy challenge: create affordable, scalable and decentralized power. How do you tackle a challenge of this scale? It requires progressive change, something Shell supports via Shell LiveWIRE and Shell Springboard, initiatives which have provided assistance and millions in funding to help startups and today’s clean energy innovators realise their visions. Real shifts often come from small, smart and flexible ideas, ones that seem as outlandish as harvesting the sun’s rays with silicon seemed more than a half century ago.

For Pakistani electrical engineer Sanwal Muneer, 22, the solution came by recasting a longtime enemy of environmentalists — traffic — as a saviour and energy source. The company he co-founded with CTO Asad Liaquat and Sidra Muneer, Capture Mobility, a Shell LiveWIRE alumnus that recently won an Outstanding Achievement award from the UK Trade and Investment department, manufactures eight-foot tall columns topped with a spinning turbine, which resemble roadside artwork. But when positioned in medians or along highways, the hybrid power source uses a built-in helical turbine, turned by the wind and turbulence from passing cars and trucks, as well as solar panels, to generate electricity. Portable enough for roadsides and rural areas, the device creates enough power in a day to run a small home. Removable filters also help clean air that’s been polluted by passing traffic.

“I wanted to create something that could be scaled up easily.”

The idea for capture mobility came to Muneer in 2013, when he was competing in Shell Eco-marathon — a competition to design, build and test an energy-efficient vehicle. A stray observation led him to consider the high speed traffic turbulence which made him think about using wind turbines to capture the energy of traffic being wasted; soon he was planting prototypes beside local roads.

“I wanted to create something that could be scaled up easily irrespective of geography and environment,” says Muneer. “Available renewable resources might not be efficient and reliable everywhere — such as solar in Scotland — so we need to come up with innovative ways to generate clean energy to pace up with the demand.”

This article originally appeared as a paid promotion on The New York Times.

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