Have you ever wondered whether our daily activities can actually yield enough energy to power and light homes? In a world that is increasingly talking about going green, and an ecosystem that prefers ‘smart societies’ powered by renewable and newer forms of non-polluting energy, the idea of harvesting human footsteps to generate sustainable energy is no longer a figment of the imagination.
What’s This Technology About?
Piezoelectricity can power the creation of energy from footsteps. Piezo elements like crystals, certain ceramics, or even your old earphones accumulate electric charge when mechanical force is applied on them. If the pavement you walk on is made up of such Piezo materials — or, better still, if the soles of your shoes is filled with such Piezo materials – you could generate energy simply by walking!
How Much Energy Can You Generate?
If each human step can produce around 15W energy on an average, by walking through an energy floor containing 70 such connected tiles we can produce 1kW energy.
What if a game of soccer is played on a piezo surface? The amount of energy produced can actually meet the electricity needs of a railway station or a football stadium. Taking this logic forward, if future roads, bridges, sidewalks, and benches are made up of piezo materials then moving cars and even resting bystanders can create enough electricity to make the cities of the future self-generating and self-sustaining.
An Opportunity Waiting To Be Tapped!
There are a few companies around the world which have ventured into energy floors for commercial use. However they aren’t successful yet, not because the business doesn’t hold promise, but because the costs involved are significant.
The industry is at least 50 years away from becoming a viable commercial option. As of today, it costs around GBP 1,250 to cover one square meter of ground with piezo tiles. Therefore, it may not be feasible for a new enterprise to get into this business.
However, what if energy companies across the world decide to co-invest and partner in this technology? What if the energy regulators of different countries encourage a gain-sharing formula, where new entrepreneurs and old war horses come together to adopt piezoelectricity? That can turn the scales.
The ‘Piezo’ Scape is the Future
Imagine this: As you jog in your smart complex floored with energy tiles, your smartphone (which has a chip connected to your soles) gets charged by the electricity you generate as you run.
With the growing clamor around ‘green technology’, we foresee the piezo scape to develop in the following ways in the future:
- Energy Sharing Partnerships: A gain-sharing model could emerge where a utility provider could partner with a shopping mall, dance club, or highway authority to invest in piezo-electric surfaces. The electricity thus produced may not only be enough to power the mall or the dance club, but surplus amounts could also be thrown back into the grid to help the utility company save on energy generation costs.
- Savings on Distribution and Retail Costs: As individuals and businesses produce their own electricity, utility companies will see a reduction in their overall distribution and retail costs.
- Lower Cost of Energy Generation: As more energy tiles are adopted, the per capita cost of energy tiles will come down.
Harnessing More Energy Quicker
At a time when the conservative utility industry is facing wide competition, and in an era where technologies like distributed generation, behind-the-meter generation, and energy storage batteries are increasingly rendering existing business models inadequate, utility enterprises would do well to challenge the status quo. They should consider alternative renewable forms of energy that have commercial potential.
The mammoth potential of piezoelectricity is waiting to be unearthed. Utility companies will do well to co-invest in and harness the potential of walking and other activities.
How do you think your company could use piezoelectricity? Tell us in the comments section below.