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Council wins bid to trial technology for the roads of the future

The government has awarded more than £1 million funding to Central Bedfordshire Council to trial three types of renewable energy generation ideas.

It will test three new high-tech techniques for using roads, cycleways and pavements to capture, store and reuse solar, kinetic and thermal energy.

These trials will see how new technologies work in the real world, and will help influence how future roads are built in the 21st century.
The council is currently upgrading a 3km stretch of the A421 road into Milton Keynes. The new dual carriageway will have a pavement and cycleway running alongside it with a special surface that will capture solar energy.

In the summer, this heat can be stored and used to power streetlights and electronic road signs, or even heat nearby buildings.

In cold weather, the technology will be used in combination with water pipes laid just below the surface that use geothermal energy from the earth.

Together, they can also be used to warm the road surface, to prevent icy conditions and reduce the reliance on gritting lorries.  
In another trial, the council will test kinetic pavement panels in Flitwick. These will capture the energy created by pedestrian footfall, which can again be used to power streetlights and electronic road signs. As pedestrians step on the pavement tiles, their weight will cause electromagnetic induction generators to generate off-grid electricity.

Cllr Ian Dalgano, executive member for community services, said: “Central Bedfordshire Council is investing heavily in its road network over the next five years, with £89 million funding new and upgraded roads. As well as helping people to travel quickly and easily, these construction projects also provide a great opportunity to try out some new futuristic technology.
“We are looking at how we can reduce costs and make the most our tax payers’ money. So we are really thrilled to be chosen to pilot these cutting edge renewable energy projects.

“The trials will help test innovative solutions that are currently very much in their infancy, but which could be rolled out to other local authorities in the future. And they will also help to ensure our communities’ energy requirements rely on sustainable, eco-friendly sources.”

  • The scheme is co-funded by the Department for Transport. Bids were invited to test new innovative, intelligent solutions that could help to future-proof the local road network. Central Bedfordshire Council is one of eight local authority winners who will be trialling seven projects across the country.

The upgraded A421 road is planned to be complete by the end of next year but the new innovative road surface could be tested ahead of that. The Flitwick town centre improvements are due to be in place by the end of March 2020. 

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