Sustainable Energy

How your feet can light up a street

Anmar Frangoul | Special to

There's no denying that a good walk helps your health – the U.K.'s National Health Service says that walking 3,000-4,000 steps a day will help burn calories, strengthen our heart and clear our minds – but what about powering streetlights, or charging phones?

Pavegen is a London-based company that is looking to harvest the energy from our footsteps to do precisely this. They have designed and built flooring that converts the kinetic energy we produce when walking into clean, renewable electricity.

"The Pavegen panels convert the weight of your footsteps into electricity, so every time you walk on our product it harnesses a small amount of energy from every single step," Laurence Kemball-Cook, CEO and Founder of Pavegen, told in a phone interview.

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Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP | Getty Images

"So every single step you make on the tiles will generate up to seven watts of power – we use the energy to power things like street lighting," Kemball-Cook added. "All we need is the simple input of footsteps."

At the end of last month, Pavegen installed 10 of its tiles in Canary Wharf. The installation lasted two weeks and was designed to showcase the potential of the technology to power street lighting.

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Other installations, from Heathrow Airport to schools in both the UK and United States, have shown the flexibility of the technology. The company has also developed what it describes as a 'plug-and-play installation system' that enables Pavegen tiles to be installed both inside and outside.

Pavegen launched a crowdfunding campaign at the end of May, and has raised more than £1.3 million ($2 million) to date. For Kemball-Cook, the potential of Pavegen's technology is considerable. "I think that we offer a unique way for people to generate energy within cities," he said.

"If you look at the amount of roof space in a city compared to the amount of floor space, there's a huge amount more floor space that can be used to harness power," he added.

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Can the tiles be installed anywhere? "The deployment is most suitable in high footfall areas, so if you put it in a dusty corner of your kitchen it wouldn't generate much power," Kemball-Cook said. "it works best where there's lots of people, so offices, train stations all those kinds of places," he added.