Eight days before the Boston Marathon, a race took place in Paris with a very different surprise waiting for runners at the finish line: 176 rubber panels, converting the runners’ final steps into energy.
It was the largest installation yet of Pavegen, a creation of 27-year-old Laurence Kemball Cook. Pavegen is an electricity generating tile made from recycled car tires, and a creative, if arduous, way to generate power. "One step on a Pavegen generates up to 8 watts per second," spokesperson Alex Johnson told us. By my calculations, that means if you walked in place on a Pavegen tile at a rate of one step per second, it would take you 40 minutes to charge your iPhone.
Still, with more than 50,000 runners those steps add up. Schneider Electric—who commissioned the project—held a contest on Facebook, and said if they generated over 7 kilowatt-hours of energy they would make a donation to Habitat for Humanity. "To generate 7 kwh would require up to 3,150,000 steps, depending on force of steps," said Johnson.
As it turned out, all those runners generated more like two-thirds of that: 4.7 kilowatt-hours. That’s enough to power a Nissan Leaf to drive 15 miles, according to Johnson.
A power source that requires a marathon for a morning commute is unlikely to displace solar or wind as the renewable energy source of choice. The value seems more instructional, as shown in their choice of the Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys for their first permanent installation. "It’s a fantastic opportunity for the students to get visual representation of what they’re doing, the way that they can harness energy," says Simon Langton headmaster Matthew Baxter in a promotional video. "It looks good."