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Don't be surprised if that thing you stepped on sparks a charge: kinetic energy is popping up everywhere from soccer fields to college campuses.

Clean Power

Kinetic Energy Tiles, Coming Soon To… Just About Anywhere

Don’t be surprised if that thing you stepped on sparks a charge: kinetic energy is popping up everywhere from soccer fields to college campuses.

We were all excited when we heard about a new mobile device charging station powered by a pair of kinetic energy tiles, but then we heard about a whole soccer field full of ’em, so we’re leading with that. Kinetic energy tiles generate a charge every time you step on them, and when you think about the amount of stepping, running, and jumping that people do, that opens up a world of possibilities for clean, renewable energy.

Things were getting off to a slow start the last time we checked in on kinetic energy, so now would be a good time to catch up.

kinetic energy tiles soccer field

Soccer ball (cropped) by Rob.

Kinetic Energy Tiles On A Soccer (Okay, So Football) Field

We’ve heard about kinetic energy dance floors, train stations, and even speed bumps, but the technology has barely penetrated the commercial market, especially when compared to solar power.

That could all be about to change.

Earlier this week the Daily Mail reported that the world’s first ever soccer field with lights powered by kinetic energy tiles just got its launch in Rio de Janeiro.

Interestingly, the installation, which involves 200 kinetic energy tiles, was sponsored by Royal Dutch Shell of all people (yes, corporations are people, too).

The tiles were provided by a company that caught our eye last year, called Pavegen.

Last year we noted that Pavegen was set to install a more modestly scaled array of 20 kinetic energy tiles in a pedestrian pathway linking a mall with a nearby stadium. The company’s projects also include office buildings, schools, and airports. The soccer field is its largest project so far, so it looks like Pavegen is ready for its closeup.

Pavegen is rather cagey about its technology, but according to the Daily Mail it involves a mechanical system with spinning cogs.

Other kinetic energy approaches that we’ve recently taken noted of are a bellows-based system just introduced in a roadway in Mexico, and a cutting edge microfluidics system based on electrowetting.

Kinetic Energy Tiles On Campus

With plenty of foot traffic, schools are a natural location for incorporating kinetic energy tiles into pedestrian paths, which brings us to this other new installation, a kinetic energy mobile device charging station just installed on the campus of Webster University in St. Louis.

The “EnGo” charging station is the brainchild of a New York company called The Volta Group, and though it apparently consists of only two tiles, the first-of-its-kind (in the US, anyways) kinetic energy mobile device charger could help open the floodgates for similar installations around the country.

At a cost of about $20,000, the EnGo charging station at Webster doesn’t exactly pay for itself in terms of the kinetic-sourced electricity it generates, but The Volta Group has piggybacked a load of other value-added features onto the station.

EnGo kinetic energy station at Webster

EnGo kinetic energy station at Webster University (courtesy of WU).

Most noticeable is the solar panel that doubles as a shade and weather protector (for the record, the kinetic energy soccer field also has solar panels for night lighting), but that’s just for starters.

The customized station includes 10 ports for different cables cell phones and tablets, two USB ports, and two wireless charging pads. It also includes free Wi-Fi and an emergency phone link to the campus security department.

The Volta Group also markets a nifty little fold-up transportable version of the charging station, which you can roll around on wheels. The solar panel folds up, and two kinetic tiles are attached to the station with cords.

Giant Steps And Baby Steps To A Clean Energy Future

Utility scale wind and solar power, along with distributed solar, have been grabbing a lot of headlines lately, but we’re thinking that kinetic energy won’t be an also-ran for long.

 

Aside from harvesting renewable energy from the existing activity of people and their vehicles, kinetic energy’s big advantage over fossil fuels is that it provides another opportunity to generate energy from existing resources, namely the built environment, rather than continuing to depend on high-risk behaviors.

That risk is growing, as energy needs increase globally and along with that comes an increase in the amount of fossil fuel being transported around the globe in pipelines, rail cars, tanker trucks and marine craft.

Paved surfaces and floors are just a couple of opportunities for on site kinetic energy harvesting. There are also devices in the works to harvest energy from revolving doors, elevators, and escalators.

Kinetic energy can also literally piggyback onto people. In development now are wearable devices that harvest energy from bodies in motion, such as a kinetic energy device designed for infantry.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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