Rio de Janeiro: The first people-powered football pitch

Rio de Janeiro is home to over 800 favelas. Millions of residents live below the poverty line, criminal activity is high, and the energy supply is erratic. These communities rely primarily on electricity from the power grid, which is often interrupted due to load shedding and frequent blackouts.

While some favelas became quite famous during the World Championship and earned a lot of publicity as tourist attractions, others didn’t. One of these places is Morro da Mineira in Rio de Janeiro, a favela that has not benefited from the city’s tourism and private enterprise development. But now a game-changing technology could liberate this area from its Cinderella existence: The global energy giant Shell and the technology company Pavegen have installed 200 kinetic-harvesting tiles on a local football pitch, which convert the energy from footsteps into electricity.

Pavegen calls this technology 'footfall harvesting': Each time someone steps on one of the tiles, the surface flexes about five millimetres, which feels like walking on a playground or a running track. This movement creates kinetic energy – about six watts per footstep on average – which can be stored for later use. Combined with energy from solar panels, the footfall-harvesting lights, the pitch, and the surrounding area can be powered for 10 hours a night on a fully charged battery.

The football pitch in Morro da Mineira was officially opened by global football legend Pelé in September 2014. In December 2015, Pavegen installed another pitch in Lagos, Nigeria. But the technology is not only in use in football: it also generates energy from passengers’ footsteps in train stations, airports, and shopping centres.

We hope to see more of these great tiles in future – not only in Rio but everywhere in our daily lives.

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