Walk, Dance, and Dress Your Way to Renewable Energy


“go green” by Stephen Jones


Kinetic Energy Harvesting. Sounds like a futuristic B-rated horror movie, or maybe a new age farm in northern California.

You’d be wrong.

We’ve made leaps and bounds with solar, wind, wave, and biomass for renewable energy development. But more and more, energy innovators are turning to the human race for the next generation of renewable energy powered solutions. The way we walk, dance, exercise, and even the way we move in our clothes will help shape the way we think about capturing, storing, and using electricity in our everyday lives.

A UK-based cleantech company has developed an energy-capturing tile, a low-carbon solution that brings kinetic energy harvesting to the streets. Designed for heavy foot traffic areas, the tiles convert kinetic energy from footsteps of pedestrians into renewable electricity. The energy can be used to help power street lighting, displays, alarms, and advertising.

Each time someone steps on the tile, a central light illuminates, helping to produce the 2.1 watts of electricity per hour the tiles can generate. It also provides self-sufficient lighting for pedestrian crossings.

The average active person walks 8,000–10,000 steps per day, which is about four to five miles over at least a few hours.  Each watt of electricity equals one hour of traditional electricity. You can see this starting to add up!

You probably haven’t seen or “used” these tiles yet. But if you were lucky enough to be on the dance floor at Bestival on the Isle of Wight in 2011 you may have experienced the tiles first hand. They’ve also been monitored for durability in a London area school corridor where 1,100 students pass through every day, generating the electricity to power lighting applications.

These innovative tiles will take center stage this summer during the London 2012 Olympics along one of the main crossing points for Olympic athletes and visitors.

Fitness centers across the country are embracing the green revolution too. Many gymnasiums have retrofitted their equipment such as stationary bikes, stair steppers and elliptical machines to capture the motion of the pedals which is then used to generate electricity. The additional power produced by avid gym-users can offset some of the gym’s energy needs.

The textile industry is another interesting example of the creative development and application of renewable energy. Scientists have been experimenting with small wires that are woven into fabrics and rely on movement, pressure, or body heat to generate energy. The concept is in the early stages of testing. It’s too soon to have conclusive results, but can you imagine charging up your mobile device by plugging it into your shirt or jacket?

Though in their infancy, all of these examples show promise for use with people all over the world. As individuals, we often feel unsure of how to contribute to the growing need for clean energy generation. These initiatives allow us to become a part of the conversation and to participate directly in making sustainably minded choices.

As our options for harnessing renewable energy become ever more creative, the possibilities are endless.

What’s next? Power-pack chewing gum, anyone?