A pilot project that aims to create electricity from the footfall of commuters is to be installed at London’s Canary Wharf this summer, helping the district to be more sustainable while gathering vital data on visitors’ habits.
Pavegen’s flooring technology consists of slabs made from recycled rubber and polymer concrete that convert the weight of a footstep into renewable electricity. When a slab is stepped on it deflects the top sheet by 5mm, and the movement is converted to electricity, which is delivered in to a regulated 12V feed.
Unlike other energy harvesting systems, Pavegen’s technology does not rely on piezoelectricity, where energy spikes make it very hard to give a constant flow of energy. Each step on a Pavegen slab contains enough energy to power an LED streetlamp for 30 seconds. The energy conserved can also be stored in lithium polymer batteries underneath the floor to be used at a later date.
The technology was a finalist in the Cognicity Challenge award, a scheme run by the Canary Wharf Group to help small and medium businesses set up pilot projects and grow. With 100 thousand commuters passing through Canary Wharf each day, the public spaces are an ideal place to place the tiles in order to gather footfall data as well as generating renewable energy.
‘As well as generating energy, we can look at real-time analytics of footfall and where people go,’ said Laurence Kemball-Cook, an industrial design engineer and graduate of Loughborough University, who developed Pavegen whilst researching kinetic-off grid energy solutions in environments where low-carbon technologies like solar and wind are not practical. ‘We can then do things such as targeting advertising. We can see how the high street is performing in real time.’
A recent collaboration with Samsung saw shoppers in Sandton City shopping mall, Johannesburg, using a 68-tile walkway, situated within the entrance of the mall to power an interactive data screen, displaying real-time footfall data and providing an immediate visual payback of the energy harvested from its monthly footfall rate of over two million footsteps. This power was then channelled to deprived communities in South Africa for lighting, heating and basic everyday amenities.