Any single point on a busy sidewalk can receive as many as 50,000 steps per day, so imagine if you could turn that foot traffic into something useful – like energy?! Pavegen Systems Ltd. decided to do just that. They’ve created a ‘stone’ or sidewalk paver that generates electricity everytime someone steps on it. With as small as a 5mm flex in it’s rubber pavement top, it can turn the kinetic energy of busy walkers into 2.1 watts of electricity per hour!
Everytime a pedestrian steps on the Pavegen, it bends slightly, producing energy that is either stored in it’s lithium polymer batteries or distributed to nearby lights, displays, and much more. Pavegen Systems states that a mere five Pavegens steps spread out over a busy sidewalk has the ability to generate enough electricity to power a bus stop bench area with lights and displays throughout the entire night. Extended into other public and private spaces the system has the potential to power lights, computers, automatic doors, ticket machines, etc. Depending on the usage, the payback period could be as little as one year, with each Pavegen stone having an estimated 5 year lifespan – or 20 million steps!
Constructed from marine grade stainless steel and recycled materials, the surface (which comes in a variety of choice colors) of each slab features the rubber from old tires, and the internal components are made from recycled aluminum. Whenever a slab is stepped on it emits a glow (which only uses 5% of the total energy produced) – this not only informs the passerby of their contribution, but also reinforces a sustainable attitude and an increased awareness of the energy that is continually created and expended by each individual.
So far Pavegen has been tested out in East London and will continue onto various destinations in the UK in 2010. If all goes well it will hopefully be jetting off to some of the most trafficked and amazing places all over the world like New York’s Times Square, the Eiffel Tower or even Disney World.
Editor’s note: While this is fascinating and indeed a ‘step forward’ (no pun intended), in a realistic environment, the power needs of lighting and displays will far outweight the pithy 2.1 watts per hour these steps can generate. Standard bulbs can vary from 40-100 watts typically and even compact fluorescents still burn through 7-15 watts. New technology that brings LED’s into the standard lightbulb world at a reasonable cost looks like the only product that can benefit from 2.1 watts, but even then – the lumen output (or how much light is emitted in a certain area) is very small. A 1.5 watt LED bulb will shine at about 30-50 lumens; similar to a standard, cheap-o plastic flashlight in total light output perceived by the human eye.
I run several LED “Edison style” bulbs in my home, but they are for nighttime lighting, such as hallways and bathrooms. They are not bright enough to read a book under without straining your eyes but they are an amazing alternative when you only need moderate light.
We’ll continue to track this technology and companies that manufacture similar products but I have a feeling we are still a few years away from “footsteps paving the way to green energy.”
- Kevin Hayden
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