• Question: I have heard that one idea for renewable energy is collecting the energy it would take to compress a speed bump. Do you think that this would be a realstic and worth while idea?

    Asked by cspooner to Amy, Drew, Julia, Kimberley, Sara on 18 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Julia Griffen

      Julia Griffen answered on 16 Jun 2011:

      Hey Cspooner… Not quite sure what the idea is of compressing a speed bump… maybe you could elaborate???.. I work alot on issues of sustainability and renewable energy so I’ll go into some detail 🙂

      Renewable energy is basically any form of energy that hasn;t used fossil fuel to make it (thats oil, gas and coal)

      Why dont we like fossil fuel?? The sources are running out, and becoming ever more expensive. However the major issue is that they are dirty and polluting. When we burn fossil fuels they dont only give off CO2 which is strongly associated with climate change but produce many other harmful substances especailly NOx, which causes acid rain, which corrodes buildings and affects the environment.

      So types of renewable energy: Solar power, Wind power, Hydroelectric (dams), Biomass, Tidal power, Wave power.

      Why is it good? all these methods of generating electricity require no fossil fuels, and hence do not prooduce and CO2 and contribute to climate change.

      Why are they bad? Generating renewable energy isn’t as efficient, some of the methods are expensive (e.g solar cells require precious metals to make them).

      So should we be for or against renewable energy??

      I’m all for it.. Its not 100% efficeint at the moment, but there is so much research in this area that things are soon to improve.

      What do you think??

    • Photo: Drew Rae

      Drew Rae answered on 16 Jun 2011:

      Hi cspooner – it’s an interesting idea, but you’re never going to get back more energy that you’re putting into the car to drive over the speed bump in the first place, right? So you could save a lot more energy by just not driving over the speed bump. You could save even more by not making the journey!

    • Photo: Kimberley Bryon

      Kimberley Bryon answered on 16 Jun 2011:

      I haven’t heard that idea before. I see Drew’s point that the car needs fuel to run but realistically people are still going to drive so if you could harvest even a small amount of energy back I think it would be worthwhile. It wouldn’t ever be the main source of renewable energy but it might be a good idea if it works.

    • Photo: Sara Imari Walker

      Sara Imari Walker answered on 17 Jun 2011:

      Hey cspooner! I noticed your profile pic is Marie Curie – awesome! She is one of my biggest heros!!

      Since Julia, Drew, and Kimberley have got some pretty good answers here and its very late at night I’ll be a little silly and say I think they should design roads to be like M.C. Escher paintings so we can always go downhill (google Escher if you don’t know his work – it will blow your mind!) Think of the fuel savings!

      It would be fun, but it sounds ridiculous right? But the idea is sort-of similar to trying to get energy from speed bumps or braking, the nature of doing any kind of work (i.e. using energy to do something useful) is that it dissipates energy! This is governed my the most sacred law in all of physics …. Dah dah daahhhhh …..

      The Second Law of Thermodynamics! which says that the entropy a system (disorder or energy that cannot do useful work) ALWAYS increases. This is literally sacred, when people propose new theories they are more willing to violate any other law in nature than the second law, even energy conservation!! In short, the second law tells us we can’t get energy out of everything – some is just useless. So just as Drew says, you can’t get back more energy from the speed bump than it took for your car to drive over it and compress it. But thankfully we have smart people like Julia here to work on renewable energy sources that aren’t breaking the law 😉

    • Photo: Amy MacQueen

      Amy MacQueen answered on 18 Jun 2011:

      Wow…I think these guys have already given pretty comprehensive answers!! Renewable energy is a very important thing – I’m not sure the speedbump idea is realistic but we need to put more funding into renewable energy!! 🙂