What Happens in Vegas
Generating electricity from foot traffic on sidewalks is nothing new. But Las Vegas wants to take it one step further. Startup EnGoPlanet is testing a hybrid system of solar panels and kinetic energy pads that will power street lights in Vegas' Boulder Plaza. In total, four street lights and eight kinetic pads are being installed downtown.
The energy-efficient LED street lights primarily get their power from curved solar panels, which charge a battery during the day for operation at night. When the sky is cloudy or there's not enough juice, the footstep pads are able to charge that battery, pumping out about four to eight watts per step.
But it's not just a street light system. It is outfitted with many features, including a motion sensor that detects the presence of a pedestrian, saving energy when no one is around. The system also has sensors that measure air quality, detect water, and monitor traffic.
Security cameras, WiFi hotspots, and charging options like USB ports and inductive charging are also powered by the battery. Further, the whole system is designed to be off-grid.
Small Changes, Big Impact
EnGoPLANET sees this installation as a stepping stone toward its vision to bring light to areas of the world without electricity. An Indiegogo campaign wants to bring this tech to 10 rural areas in Africa.
The company notes the massive environmental cost traditional streetlights can bring. Lighting them costs the world $40 million each year, and results in over 100 million tons of CO2. This may seem insignificant compared to the nearly 10 billion metric tons, but small changes add up. The world is getting warmer, and scientific consensus tells us that it's our fault.
That's why initiatives like this are needed. They push cities toward more sustainable ways to develop and bring services. At this point, we'll need a massive rethinking of how we build cities if we want to stave off ecological disaster.