Las Vegas, the city of sin, has become ecologically sound. Since the “Boulder Solar I” solar panels network started operating last December, the gaming capital powers all its 140 infrastructures with electricity of 100% renewable origin.
For the moment, its energy mix comes mainly from the deployment of solar panels but also of hydroelectric turbines. And by the end of 2017, the electricity produced by the Hoover dam, 40 km from Las Vegas, will make up the balance of the city’s energy sources.
But in the meantime, the “city that never sleeps” has decided to conduct an unprecedented experiment. Starting from the principle that every citizen can become an energy producer through their feet, the start-up EnGoPlant has just fitted a crossroads in the arts district, in the heart of Las Vegas, with kinetic paving slabs.
The principle: When passers-by tread on the ground, the paving slabs capture their energy. Depending on the pressure exerted, each step can produce between 4 and 8 watts. This energy is then stored, to be redistributed to the streetlights at night. And only according to the real needs…. as each streetlight has intelligent sensors, capable of reducing the lighting if no passer-by treads on the paving slabs.
For the moment, the experiment is limited to four streetlights also fitted with wi-fi terminals, security cameras, sensors for monitoring the air quality and the state of the road traffic, and smartphone chargers. The “pedestrian” energy is only used at night, while during the day, the system is powered by solar panels.
From the dance floor to the motorway
And what if kinematic energy should gradually become the new norm for urban lighting? According to the start-up, metropolises spend around 40 billion dollars a year on energy for some 300 million streetlights powered by conventional energy across the globe. This doesn’t take into account the pollution generated by fossil energy.
Although they are doing their tests at the scale of a crossroads, kinetic paving slabs have enormous potential. After first testing them on a dance floor, the British company Pavegen Systems then fitted one of the long corridors at Heathrow airport with these paving slabs. That was in 2015… Two years later, these paving slabs may well be fitted on the Cambridge University campus. For its part, the US company EnGoPlanet dreams of extending its system to motorways. The idea makes sense: if the pressure of the cars could generate the electricity their engines will soon need, the energy would go full circle.