28 January 2016
— Will Nichols (@WillNicholsRisk) January 18, 2016
In 2014, Senegalese-American hip-hop star Akon started a solar power initiative called Akon Lighting Africa. It aimed to bring electricity to 600 million rural Africans
Now the star has continued his philanthropic work for the continent with a smaller, but more intriguing project – powering a soccer field, floodlights and all, using solar power and the kinetic energy generated by the players on the field.
Partnering with the Shell oil company and British green technology company Pavegen, Akon opened the first of the innovative fields for Africa in Lagos, Nigeria in December 2015.
Pavegen developed technology housed in floor tiles that can store energy from the pressure of weight exerted on the tiles. The company tested prototype tiles in high foot-traffic spots such as London’s Heathrow Airport and Harrods department store. The pedestrian traffic helped to power LED lights and USB charging stations. Over the past two years, Pavegen streamlined the technology to almost double the output.
The company collaborated with Brazilian soccer legend Pele in 2014 on an installation on a rundown community athletic field in Morro da Mineira in Rio de Janeiro. Together, they transformed it into the world’s first player-powered soccer pitch.
Akon Lighting Africa joined Pavegen with financing from Shell to bring the technology to Africa.
The idea of people-generated power seemed to be a natural pairing with sport activity, and as Akon told the MMN sport blog, applying it to the humble football fields found almost everywhere across Africa, was a great opportunity to educate people about the possibilities of alternative and renewable energy.
After the unveiling of the first of the power-pitches at a teachers’ training college in Lagos, Akon and Pavegen will present a full demonstration of the system at the 2016 Powering Africa Summit at the end of January in Washington, DC.
Governments from, among others, South Africa, Mozambique and Nigeria, will attend the summit. They will meet green technology companies and other multinational organisations to find solutions to energy and environmental concerns within the African context.
— Pavegen Systems (@Pavegen) December 17, 2015
The Lagos pitch consists of 100 energy-harnessing tiles hidden beneath artificial turf. The energy generated powers the field’s floodlights and illuminates the grounds at night. Energy capacity is helped by an onsite solar array, but Pavegen believes that as the technology improves, the need for solar enhancement will eventually be minimal.
The long-term goal of the tile technology will be to generate enough energy from activity on the pitch to power an entire village.
According to Pavegen, each time a tile is stepped on it generates 7W of power. Combined with the solar array, the battery-based system can power the pitch’s floodlights for up to 24 hours.
Laurence Kemball-Cook, the founder of Pavegen, says the solar-powered pitch symbolises possibilities. “(It) shows how the energy mix of the future will combine kinetic and solar power to improve communities.”
Siji Olusanya, the principal of the college, called the idea inspiring: “(Our teachers can) use their first-hand experience of this pitch to inspire pupils. to work towards developing bright energy ideas that could make a real difference to their community, Nigeria or even the world.”
Akon, who is taking a break from his music career to concentrate on his charity work, says that new, reliable and smarter energy solutions play a major role in driving human progress in Africa. “Projects like these draw attention to the major opportunity that Nigeria as well as the whole of Africa have if we look to better harness new technologies and the continent’s abundant renewable energy resources.”