Published: 06:00, 12 October 2020
| Updated: 16:00, 12 October 2020
An entrepreneur from Whitstable believes his design for a brand new onshore wind turbine system will be crucial in delivering cheap renewable energy to the UK and beyond.
The turbines, attached to existing lamp posts along motorways, would use the wind created by vehicles speeding past to generate electricity, using it to power the lights and eventually a lot more.
Watch: The turbines would use busy roads like the M20 and M2 and use wind generated from the vehicles
It follows Prime Minister Boris Johnson's pledge last week that an impending green industrial revolution would power every home in the UK with offshore wind by 2030 .
But Barry Thompson, the man behind Alpha 311's 'revolutionary' motorway-powered turbine concept, is doubtful the target could be achieved without innovative onshore solutions.
The chief executive officer of the company said: "Do I think offshore wind is everything? No, I think onshore wind is the cheaper option, and a distributed network needs to really push this thing forward.
"Whether we'll be doing it by 2030 I don't know, it's going to need a lot of collaboration."
Mr Thompson and the team at Alpha 311 say their concept is the first of its kind in the world, and offers a simple response to the complex challenge of amassing large amounts of clean energy.
Speaking from his home office which is powered by the prototype units, the 51-year-old said said: "If you've ever stood by the road and a lorry has gone past, you'll feel the air that moves - we capture that energy."
As an example, the A299 Thanet Way is less than 20 miles and features 1114 lighting columns.
The company believe a turbine attached to each lighting column could collectively generate around 6mw per day - enough to power a small village.
The turbines would be installed on the central reservation, therefore powered by wind generated on both sides of the carriageway.
Watch: the prototype in action
Concerns have been raised in recent times of the environmental impacts of green energy schemes in the county.
Campaigners fiercely protested what will be the UK's largest solar farm, built on Graveney Marshes between Faversham and Whitstable .
The greenlit Cleve Hill Solar Park scheme will cover 900 acres, and was fought against by locals and Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately.
Mr Thompson believes unlike theses kind of schemes, their motorway-powered concept would blend in with existing infrastructure.
The clean energy advocate said: "People have thought of putting wind turbines on top of lighting columns, they've considered remaking lighting columns in their entirety, but this is a retro fit solution, so it attaches to what we already have.
"We're not blighting the landscape with massive turbines, we're making use of existing infrastructure."
He added: "Nobody wants a 700ft turbine in their backyard - would you notice these on a motorway?"
Each turbine can generate the same as 21 sq m of solar panels and is two metres tall, with the potential to be even smaller as development continues.
The turbines, which are still currently in development, would cost under £20,000 each, but they would not be sold to local authorities.
Instead they would be leased and there would be a money share between Alpha 311 and councils, derived from the energy revenue generated.
Mr Thompson said the company is currently in talks with a UK local authority to trial the technology on their motorways, but could not confirm which one.
A number of small US cities are also trialling the technology from Alpha 311.
The organisation has approached Kent County Council (KCC) in a effort to strike up a collaboration, but has had no luck so far.
KCC has been contacted for comment.
Mr Thompson said: "If Kent spends £12m a year powering the street lights, then we want that £12m to be spent in Kent on local inhabitants, in those local communities.
"We know we're capable of powering the street lights - the question then is what else could we power?
"Could we power local schools, can we power 5G repeaters so we can advance the rollout of 5G without us having to put huge towers up?"
The project is looking to go into testing next year, with a hopeful rollout in counties across the UK beyond that.
Despite the Prime Minister's preaching to the might of the offshore wind turbines, the recent effort to extend one such location in Kent was denied earlier this year.
Vattenfall, the Swedish company running the 100 turbines off the coast of Thanet and the Kentish Flats Extension 7km off the coast of Herne Bay, had it's proposal to build a new cluster of turbines rejected by government .