While the term "electrifying" can sometimes be used to describe breathtaking performance in sports, it's not often you'll find it used for marathon runners. Yet, that's precisely the word I'd use to describe this year's Paris Marathon, which took place on Sunday April 7. You see, as the feet of almost 40,000 runners hit a 25-meter (82-foot) installation of special tiles at the beginning of the 26-mile (42-km) course, kinetic energy was harvested and turned into usable electricity.
The brainchild of Pavegen Systems' CEO Laurence Kemball-Cook, each energy-harvesting tile flexes by 5 mm when stepped on, resulting in up to 8 watts of kinetic energy over the brief period of the footstep. Install a number of the tiles in pedestrian-rich areas and the energy produced can be stored in batteries, or used to help power street lighting, information kiosks, communications technology and the like.
The 176 Pavegen tiles laid out across the Champs-Elysées departure point of the 37th Paris Marathon represent the British cleantech company's largest installation to date. Tiles were also placed around spectator viewing platforms and other key points along the route, and built-in wireless technology was able to transmit energy production information for display on huge screens.
In an interesting twist, 2013 Paris Marathon sponsor Schneider Electric promised to increase its already substantial donation of €50,000 (US$65,000) to French NGO Habitat et Humanisme by €10,000 (US$13,000), if the runners and the crowds of spectators managed to generate more than 7,000 watt-hours between them. Though the final tally actually came up a little short at 4.7 kWh, Schneider decided to throw in the extra bonus anyway, and the charitable organization will be receiving the full amount.
As for the marathon itself, 22 year-old Kenyan Peter Some won the men's race with a time of 2:05:38, while Tadese Boru from Ethiopia set a new women's record of 2:21:06.