Apartment Life Blog

Energy-saving Ideas of the Future

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Here’s a thought to ponder on your next jog around the park:  What if you harness all that energy you’re generating (and basically wasting) as you pound the pavement?

In fact, industrial design engineer Laurence Kemball-Cook has given the matter great thought.  Kemball-Cook wants to put people on the power grid by harnessing their daily expendable energy. “Imagine if your walk home in the morning could power lights for your walk home in the evening,” says Kemball-Cook, who has worked for one of Europe’s largest utility companies. His solution is Pavegen, a flooring tile that absorbs kinetic energy from footsteps and converts it into electricity.

Kemball-Cook hopes to present his ideas at the 2013 TED Conference. The annual gathering of top thinkers in technology, entertainment and design – described by some as a four-day “brain spa” — is scheduled Feb, 25 – March 1 in Long Beach and Palm Springs, Calif., and in the summer in Edinburgh, UK, During the conference, founded in 1984 in Silicon Valley, the planet’s most creative brains each get 18 minutes to pitch their ideas to a worldwide audience, which are live streamed.

Harnessing energy in innovative ways promises to be a big theme in 2013, as evidenced by ideas presented during the current talent search for speakers, TED bloggers report:

Sails: A more efficient wind energy?
Hassine Labaied, CEO of Energy Sahphon in Tunisia, North Africa, says wind will figure prominently as a future energy source.  But harnessing it via the 400-year-old technology of windmill turbines – as it’s done currently — is expensive and only 30-35% efficient, he argues. Additionally, power produced by windmill turbines can’t be stored. Labaied proposes a zero-blade system inspired by sailboat design, which he says is cheap and clean, and produces storable energy.

Weather power:  Harvesting energy from rain, hail, snow and wind
Fourteen-year-old Raymond Wang says the idea hit him while he was lying in bed one rainy evening.  What if you could capture the energy produced by precipitation and other natural forces? In his presentation to TED curators in Vancouver, Canada, Wang argued that by using pizoelectric materials, the mechanical stress of precipitation can be easily converted into electricity.

Solar energy:  A tent over the desert
MIT researcher Otto Ng advocates suspending a canopy of of mirrors and sensors over sand, moving to reflect and capture the energy from the sun.  Ng, a technologist and architect, says his proposed “Powerscape” structure is 100 times smaller in scale than a solar energy infrastructure and can generate and store electricity for future use.

Biogas:  Human waste, put to good use
According to Josiah Omotto, 60 percent of Nairobi, Kenya’s 4 million people live in informal settlements, without conventional toilets. Omotto and his team at the Umande Trust human-rights agency have been working with communities to build biocenters that are capable of converting human waste into usable electricity.


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