When commercial airliners taxi to and from runways, they burn up a lot of fuel, creating poor air quality around many airports. An engineer in Phoenix has invented a way to harness that waste and use it to power wind turbines. 

HisFreeWindconcept consists of a wind turbine, a flywheel and a generator. The electricity generated by the system would be used to power airport infrastructure, such as LED runway lights or electric-powered ground support vehicles.

“The concept ofFreeWindis really quite simple,” claims Richard Hales. “Capture the wind created by the thrust of jet engines while waiting to take off. At that point, the aircraft would be perpendicular to the runway. The wind generators would be located to the side of the taxiway where there are currently blast walls for protection of buildings, people and vehicles.

“The FAA has definite regulations governing any object that could create a hazard, so the generators would be away from any moving aircraft,” adds Hales. “Once the electricity is generated, it can be used on the airport property or sold back to the local utility. As the name implies, the electrical power [would not cost an] airport beyond the initial cost of the generators and storage batteries.

According to Hales, airports around the world are eager to reduce their carbon footprints. “Most airports are investing in electric vehicles to keep costs and pollution low,” he points out. “FreeWindcould be one measure to make these physical investments low.”

TheFreeWindproject is in its preliminary design phase. The next step is to finalize the actual design and build a prototype. Hales claims that he has received interest from throughout the United States and Europe. He has already been issues a provisional patent on the concept, which may be tested at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport in the near future.