Footsteps to provide power for the streetlights on the Prom

Deputy mayor Marciel with a sample of the power sensor.

Deputy mayor Marciel with a sample of the power sensor.

Pedestrians in Eyre Square and along the promenade in Salthill could soon be supplying clean and renewable lighting to Galway city, just by walking. The revolutionary new eco-friendly lighting system which will soon halve Toulouse’s energy consumption and should be used in Galway and cities across Ireland, says Toulouse deputy mayor Alexandre Marciel, who spent 10 days in Galway city and Clifden recently.

The pioneering politician has said that Galway is ideal for such a project and he is set to make a proposal on the matter to city council officials in the coming months. The system will see special sensor pads placed along the promenade footpath and the pressure of footsteps will generate sufficient power to light the same area.

Toulouse made headlines globally when it launched the first ever electrified pavements, putting France’s fourth largest city at the forefront of green energy initiatives. The southern French city with a population of 450,000 people is the first to embrace this technology and Mr Marciel says that there has been significant interest in the technology from around the world.

“There has been contact from cities in India, Saudi Arabia, Brazil,” he says, “ and maybe tomorrow why not Shop Street, Eyre Square and the Promenade in Galway which in my opinion is ideal for this technology.

“There is a lot of energy lost in a city with a lot of pedestrians. I wanted to capture this energy and to translate this energy into electricity.”

The technology works as a result of microsensors producing energy as people walk over them. This energy is then captured during the course of the day and is subsequently used as electricity.

Speaking at the time of the launch deputy mayor Marciel championed the project as “a world first”, and said it is an idea that has existed for a long time in people’s minds but which has never actually been made a reality.”

The ground-breaking technology was evolved and adapted from a prototype developed by Dutch company Sustainable Dance Club (SDC ) for use in a nightclub in Rotterdam where the energy captured by dancers was subsequently used to power the club. The SDC designers have been inundated by interest from all corners of the globe but Toulouse is the first urbanised centre to test the technology.

The principle of the system is the capturing of an electromagnetic force by eight panels which are strategically placed on the pavement. This energy is then fed through the metric system to produce renewable lighting. While the project is at an early developmentary stage the eight custom made panels embedded on the Toulouse streets are capable of producing between 50 and 60 watts of electricity to power a nearby street lamp.

Deputy mayor Marciel believes it is a marvellous way to produce clean, renewable, energy with little effort. “The real benefit of this product is that it produces clean energy. No coal or nuclear power . . just walk!” he says.

Mr Marciel says the cost of the project was funded entirely by the city of Toulouse in partnership with the University of Toulouse.

He says while the project required some investment at the beginning it is a long term renewable project and it will prove to be completely sustainable.

Marciel says that a number of citizens were sceptical about the project in its infancy but they have now been convinced of its genuine merit. “Some people thought it was not true and they could not believe it was produced by walking“ he says before adding, “It’s so natural it is normal.” Further development of the technology in crowded places like sports stadiums and railway stations could provide a unique opportunity for cities to produce and save massive amounts of energy in the future.

Deputy mayor Marciel is confident that Toulouse can develop the technology so that in time many more of the city’s pavements can power substantial clean renewable energy across the city. He is also optimistic that innovative eco-friendly technology like this can be used in cities like Galway in the coming years. “This product could be set up in any kind of street. The places with more people the better,” he says. “It’s very exciting, everybody should imagine the tomorrow world, the future world.”

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