The next wave of green energy tech could finally be here. Pavegen has developed a new tile designed to capture the energy people spend walking, jogging, and running.
After years of hearing no one thought it was possible and wouldn't invest in the technology, Pavegen now helps light soccer fields in Brazil and Nigeria, a hallway in Heathrow Airport and offices and shopping centers in London.
Earlier versions of tiles were rectangular, and only produced power when someone’s foot fell in the center of a tile. The latest generation of Pavegen tile, V3, is triangular, which allows them to include a generator in each corner. That means the whole tile pivots toward a generator no matter where you step. The V3 generates 5 continuous watts of power as you walk across it—that’s more than 200 times more efficient than Kemball-Cook’s first prototype.
Granted, five watts isn’t a ton, and not everyone is convinced that the world will ever run on Pavegen. For the 2013 Paris Marathon, Pavegen laid down a 25-meter strip of the last generation of tiles, and they ended up generating 4.7 kilowatt hours of energy—enough to keep an LED bulb burning for over a month, but nowhere near enough to power your home. “The very basic physics of it is pressure times the deformation of the material,” says David Horsley, a mechanical and aerospace engineer at UC Davis. “You’re not going to get very much for a step, considering you can get 100 watts from a square meter of solar paneling. But for small wearable electronics like watches, or maybe even your phone, this kind of energy harvesting makes sense.”