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Council report hits the off switch on electric footpaths

Power generating footpaths seem like a good idea, but Campbelltown Council won’t be installing them any time soon.

A report to council for next Tuesday’s meeting says that right now they’re not worth the effort and money.

What’s more, the report has come back with a list of risks associated with these 21st century footpaths, as requested by councillors in July.

An energy generating footpath consists of individual tiles capable of converting footsteps into off-grid energy and which can also collect data to identify pedestrian movement patterns.

According to the council report, a review of available information, including customer experiences, demonstrated the main concerns of energy generating footpaths include that they are uncomfortable to walk on and can pose an increased trip hazard.

“There is legal uncertainty associated with the harvesting of energy without the consent from the pedestrian and with the ownership of the energy generated,’’ said the report.

“The tiles are produced overseas and shipped internationally, increasing their environmental footprint.’’

Each tile of a power generating footpath utilises an electromagnetic generator and the footsteps of pedestrians to generate electricity.

When the tile is compressed, the electromagnetic generator rotates, resulting in the production of electricity, which can also be stored in a battery.

Approximately five watts of energy, enough to power a light globe for 30 seconds, is produced with each footstep, says the report.

Although, the cost of the tiles is coming down as the technology matures, it is still considered that the tiles themselves are relatively expensive.

An installation completed in 2016 in Washington DC in the United States of 194 tiles (about 80sqm), cost US$300,000, which is equivalent to approximately AU$405,000.

The report says the benefits of such footpaths include community engagement and sustainability awareness, media and public relations value and data generation for smart city developments.

It says in conclusion:

“Energy generating footpaths offer an interactive pedestrian experience, however, as an energy efficiency opportunity they do not generate enough energy to be financially feasible.

“They do provide a unique and interesting opportunity to activate the community and showcase sustainable and resilient initiatives.

“As an integral component of the urban landscape, it is considered that council pursue opportunities to innovatively interact and transform these spaces.’’

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