The company behind the plan is targeting the two million UK lamp posts that would be suitable for such turbines, and reckons that turnover could increase to £400million over the next five years.
Do our experts share the optimism? Partly.
Firstly, lamp posts can be a good site for small turbines. A common complaint about wind turbines is that they are unsightly and noisy – so that becomes less of issue on unsightly and noisy roads. You're also more likely to get more bang for your buck; unlike in more urban areas, there isn’t much around the poles that blocks the wind.
Location, Location, Location, a 2009 Energy Saving Trust field trial, found variable performance from small turbines – unsurprisingly considering the title, where turbines are placed was found to be a crucial factor in performance.
But although they weren't proved to work so well on buildings, they do better on poles. The fact that in this case it's about using existing poles makes it even more attractive from a cost perspective.
Another notable economic advantage is that lamp posts are already wired up to the grid, which avoids a significant cost element which is associated with most pole-mounted installations. There are some lamp posts, such as those pictured, that have solar panels attached – an alternative step towards renewable energy.
And now for the slightly cloudier outlook.
The reason that wind turbine size has increased hugely over the last few decades is that bigger turbines give out much more power for the cost, as they have a bigger swept area and are tall enough to reach stronger winds.
The turbines in the company mock-ups look small. Will this affect the economics of the plans? Time will tell.
The scope is also more limited than it would first appear, as this will only work on exposed rural roads that have street lighting—a small proportion of roads.
Then there's the characteristics of roads themselves, which aren’t usually built in very windy spots (i.e. on hills). Although the poles are tall, there's still a risk of low wind speeds affecting output.
It is also a plan not likely to be without additional – and essential – costs. Fitting a wind turbine will dramatically increase the loading on the pole whenever the turbine is operating. Existing lamp posts have not been designed to withstand this and may require structural modifications.
Safety must be a prime consideration. Wind turbines are usually sited away from people and houses, for good reason. If anything were to fall off these turbines, it could cause a fatal accident.
It seems that while turbines on lamp posts certainly has its advantages as a concept, there are still plenty of considerations for those involved in this plan to get their heads around.