Sunday, April 28, 2013

Walking Energy: Pavegen, Energy Tiles, & Eco-Tech

Finding ways to turn everyday activities into efficient renewable energy collectors is an important pursuit and necessary to help power our ravenous energy needs. We need to seek out hidden power sources and turn those sources into renewable energy.

One such example can be seen in Pavegen Systems Ltd.
a company that makes flexible energy
tiles, made from recycled truck tires with  marine grade stainless steel, that collect kinetic energy and convert it to electricity for storage and use. The waterproof tiles can be retrofitted to existing structures and are designed to withstand various weather conditions. The tiles generate up to 8 watts with each step, enough electricity to keep an LED-powered street lamp lit for 30 seconds. Granted not enough to power your Nexus, but implement this idea on large scales, and we have a handy low-cost, eco-friendly renewable energy solution. We will need many times many solutions. Consider the average human takes 150-200 million steps in a lifetime, why waste that kinetic energy?

Pavegen reports that, "The energy harvested by the Pavegen tile can immediately power off-grid applications such as pedestrian lighting, way-finding solutions and advertising signage or be stored in an on-board battery in the unit. For increased engagement with pedestrians we can also integrate a central lamp which uses only 5% of the renewable electricity output to illuminate."

The technology made its debut in TED 2012, was showcased in the London 2012 Olympics,
and has appeared in the Paris and Boston Marathons. In Paris, tiles covered 25 meters (82 feet) of the 42.2-kilometer course around a portion of Champs Elysees. Pavegen ran an unsuccessful bid on Kickstarter that ended in January 2013, where if funded, one US school and one UK school would have received a fully funded four-tile permanent Pavegen installation in a hallway with interactive renewable energy displays to show students the energy they were creating. Cool idea. Teach students about STEM and renewable energy while showing them the direct impact, bad pun withstanding, of their eco-footprints. 

This is still a great idea, especially in public schools that are increasing feeling the tight grip of austerity and fiscal uncertainty. There are numerous public spaces where we could be drawing and storing energy from regular foot-traffic; energy that could be used to power those same public spaces. This tech is in the early stages and it is likely that future iterations will collect more energy with lower production and installation costs.

Here are a few suggestions of where we can effectively use this type of technology:
  • On treadmills (with modification)
  • Schools entrances and floors
  • Museums entrances and floors
  • Busy public park paths 
  • Subway stairs and platforms
  • Running tracks
  • Nascar tracks
  • Heavy foot traffic on staircases inside and outside buildings
  • Sports facilities and fields
  • Active dance floors  
  • Heavy traffic bicycle lanes
  • Large outdoor concert and festival areas
  • On playgrounds
  • University paths and walkways
Keep Walking Project 

(Video Source: Keep Walking Project)

Reuters on the Road: Pavegen Pioneers Footfall Power

(Video Source: Reuters)

Pavegen TED

(Video Source: Ted Talent Search)

(Image sources: Pavegen Kickstarter.)

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