Did Metro build a perpetual motion machine?

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Metro’s turbine installation. Courtesy of LA Metro

As Deputy Executive Officer for Environmental Compliance Services for Metro, Cris Liban’s job is to find ways to save energy in the subway. “My staff and I were standing one day on the platform and somebody lost his toupee,” he explained. “We realized the wind in the subway is strong. Maybe we can harness it.”

His colleagues decided to test a wind turbine—a device that turns wind into electricity in the tunnel to see if it could power lights, escalators, and perhaps electric vehicle recharging stations. A ten-foot prototype was installed last summer. The construction and installation cost $600,000.