How players are powering a Lagos football pitch one step at a time

This football pitch at the Federal College of Education in Akoka, Lagos, is powered by both kinetic and solar energy.

The football pitch’s floodlights at Federal College of Education in Akoka, Lagos, is powered by both kinetic and solar energy. Photo by Edelman PR

In December a teacher’s training college in Lagos received the world’s second football pitch capable of being powered by players’ footsteps and solar energy. The first was introduced in Brazil a year before.

Located at the Federal College of Education in Akoka, the initiative makes use of technology developed by a UK-based company, Pavegen. One hundred kinetic energy-harvesting tiles have been placed beneath the pitch’s surface to capture the energy from players’ footfall and convert it into electricity to power floodlights or be stored for later use.

According to Laurence Kemball-Cook, Pavegen’s founder and CEO, one step produces up to seven watts of energy. “One step will light up a light for like 15 to 20 seconds.”

This, combined with the energy generated from solar panels, can power the community’s lights for up to 24 hours.

Early days

The Lagos soccer pitch is a result of a collaboration between Shell, Pavegen and R&B star Akon – who launched the Akon Lighting Africa initiative in 2014 with the aim of bringing renewable energy solutions to African communities across the continent.

Pavegen is also responsible for the world’s first player-powered football pitch in Brazil, and its technology is further used in high foot traffic locations across the world, including Heathrow Airport (to power LED lights) and a train station in France (to light seating areas and two USB ports).

Kemball-Cook says the technology has notable potential in the African context. “We see it powering every school, every small village, every local home, every town square. All the street lights, all the shopping malls could be powered using the energy of people’s footsteps.”

But it does not come cheap. According to Kemball-Cook, one tile (600 x 450mm) costs around £350 (about US$504) when ordered at scale. However, he believes it can still compete with other renewable energy solutions, such as solar.

“In the winter you are not going to get as much solar energy and at night there will be no solar energy because there is no sun – whereas Pavegen gives you power when and where it is needed. And where there are people you need power. So let’s take [for example] a really remote street in Africa where it is dark and dangerous. Now that street will be lit as long as there are people walking on it and it won’t be lit when no one is walking on it.”

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Laurence Kemball-Cook showing Akon and football players in Lagos how Pavegen’s kinetic energy tiles work. Photo by Edelman PR

He adds that Pavegen’s technology is competitive with solar energy in the UK environment, where there is not as much direct sunlight. His team is now looking at adapting the solution to better compete in Africa’s hotter environments, as both an effective and affordable source of energy. The company already has some other projects on the continent in the works, although no details could be given at this stage.

“Solar has taken 60 years to scale, and we have done what solar did in 20 years in five. And we’re creating the rule book on this. It is completely new grounds; we are not following anyone else. So it is taking awhile and we are working really hard to achieve that scale – and that is our next step.”