No, this isn’t some real-life Matrix meets Soylent Green dystopian match up.
Pavegen–a company with a Soylent Green-esque name–has developed a type of flooring that generates electricity from people walking on top of it.
They have received a lot of press lately because they are crowd sourcing funding to develop a way to make this technology cheaper.
The flooring the company makes captures energy from footsteps falling on it via a combination of electromagnetic induction and flywheel energy storage technologies. The system works well enough to produce up to 7 watts of electricity from one person walking across a short space. They claim their assemblage and combination of technologies is something that has never been done before and would like to see it used in places that could benefit from it—namely high traffic pedestrian routes.
The idea is to make this flooring as cheap as usual flooring so it can be used in areas highly trafficked by pedestrians. The areas targeted so far are ones primarily traversed by pedestrians and tourists–squares, airports, etc.
But 7 watts per person isn’t actually that much and the company has been criticized for this.
The Register points out that if a company were to force its employees to walk around the office building (with the PaveGen flooring) for about four hours a day, with the most generous estimates, it wouldn’t power more than 1/40th of the electricity needed to run the building.
1/40th sounds like a lot–but again, in their hypothetical case, the company is forcing its employees to walk for an hour.
The company is interested in bringing down the cost to regular flooring and is interested in continuing to innovate to generate more power.
In this case, I don’t see the harm in testing out and producing flooring that produces small amounts of energy. If their plan was to release it at extremely elevated prices for low-payoff, then than would be different.
The company is also interested in finding ways to use the rumblings from cars driving on roads to product energy as well. That sounds pretty cool, though it’s hard to conceptualize how that would work without affecting the energy efficiency of the cars. (I’m imagining they’d make the roads bounce a little more, which could–in my non-scientific opinion–cause the car to expend more energy when driving over it, no?)
The company also suggests it can use the energy to produce data about where people are walking. So your stroll through Heathrow airport could be providing them with interesting marketing insights.