Gallery: Spinnaker Tower Stairs to Generate Electricity

 

Imagine being able to collect the energy of every person walking up and down the stairs from the Spinnaker Tower viewing platform in Portsmouth, UK. That is the proposal being put forward by David Webb, from the British consultancy of Scott Wilson. His hope is to install miniature “heel-strike” generators underneath the stairs that would capture the power generated by a person as they walk down the tower. His ultimate goal is to install them in every rail station, shopping center and even in your shoes!

The idea behind the technology is remarkably simple. Everything moves, and everything that moves is expending some form of energy – kinetic energy to be precise. Some of this energy generally goes to waste, after all if you hit your foot on the ground, very little will actually happen. But thanks to advances in technology, it is now possible to recover some of that energy and turn it into electricity. The two most common technologies are piezoelectric materials, and heel strike generators.

According to Webb, if these generators were to be installed at the Victoria Underground Station in central London, the power generated by the 34,000 people moving around would be able to power approximately 6,500 lightbulbs. The technology also has application beyond the small steps. Plans are afoot to look into installing these devices in the tower itself, to harness energy from the swaying movement of the building!

Kinetic energy is looking more and more promising, particularly as a way to create small amounts of energy for individual devices. Expect to hear more about this field in the coming months.

+ Light fantastic: pedestrians to generate power + Pedestrians to power shopping centres

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9 Comments

  1. Thomas Mind January 26, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Good idea for going down. Most people probably use the steps to go down, therefore it is not half bad. Will people be able to get up the stairs now that their energy use is being increased? What percentage of their energy is being used for electricity? I read a less plagerized article like this and it stated 15%, so the people climbing will be using 15% more energy. 570 steps, capibility needs increase, but that does not make this a bad idea.

    Iman, you need to turn a generator. This means springs, and something needs to turn.

    The question is how big a generator = how much movement.
    1 watt = 3/4 of an inch? This is what R&D costs are about. It takes money to test, so spend the money to make your design.

    As much as this licensed electrician would love to see hope in this idea, it came out years ago and I have not been able to find out if it has even been installed. This should be a clue on whether it is or is not a good idea.

  2. iman November 15, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    can anyone help how i can make a model of it?

  3. sebs April 16, 2010 at 4:28 am

    Awesome! My first time to hear about this!

  4. ramanuj kumar February 13, 2009 at 7:29 am

    i like this project and i decided that i will make a model by usinng this concept.

  5. StuStu June 20, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    RE: “This idea is moronic” – Rasputin7 and “Yes, this is stupid idea.” – Paul Hammant

    Rasputin has good critical thinking skills and is right when he/she is concerned with the inherent give and take of energy production. However, he/she also has a poor understanding of physics involved in this situation. Rasputin and Paul’s criticisms are unfounded and based on faulty logic.

    First of all, we do not know to what extent the Piezo or Heel Strike Generators give. How much do they move? Many items we use every day move as we touch them, yet seem not to take any extra energy output – typing on a key board for example. Using Rasputin’s logic, typing this response to his post should be considered a workout and make me hungry. So the claim that these tiles would create more need for food is unfounded.

    Second, walking down stairs created a greater impact than our bodies need, it’s called gravity. That’s why we have nice soft soles on our shoes. Adding soles to our shoes does not make one extend a significant amount more energy when walking, but it is better for our joints. Which is better for one’s body in the long run. Which helps with doctor’s visits and keeps health care costs down.

    So, Rasputin and Paul, try to be more open to the exciting, creative, and efficient new ways people are exploring to create essential electricity and I’ll try not to make you look like a fool on the internet.

  6. PaulHammant June 20, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Yes, this is stupid idea. As it would be harder to walk on, people will avoid venues with this flooring. Maybe not tourist attractions, but shopping malls for sure.

  7. Rasputin7 June 20, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    This is a moronic idea;
    Despite what anyone says, energy is not free. It is in fact a law of thermodynamics.
    If you ‘harness’ the energy of people’s footfalls, it will tire them quicker. The surface will need to ‘give’ slightly to create energy. For it to generate any electricity at all it needs to take some. People will tire quicker. And you know where people get energy? Food. Food takes energy and water to create and grow.

    So instead of just getting power from the grid, they are taking power from the grid, using it to run tractors and pump water, growing food, having it consumed by lots of humans and then walking them on pressure plates? Extremely inefficient. Apparently ‘the future’ is people making showy, expensive, inefficient inventions to generate paltry amounts of electricity…

  8. ars2758 June 20, 2008 at 11:57 am

    That is smart. More of this type of thing is needed in the future Yet, cost effectiveness is usually the determining factor. In the past cheep petroleum always won. Maybe not anymore?

  9. PaTrond PaTrond June 19, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Burj Al Arab… Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the sheikh of Dubai won’t like this.
    The idea is good though.

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