Shell, a multinational oil and gas company, and Akon, a world-famous rapper and music-producer, are not necessarily seen to have an awful lot in common. However, they have teamed up with Pavegen– a UK-based technology start-up- to unveil a new, state-of-the-art solar and footfall powered soccer pitch at a school in Lagos, Nigeria.
The pitch uses 90 different underground tiles to harness kinetic energy produced from the footfall of players. Not only this, but the kinetic energy is then stored and supplemented with solar energy from solar panels surrounding the pitch to operate floodlights. This application of renewable energy is undoubtedly impressive, and the development is also hoped to provide a safer space at the heart of the community, as well as to help hone the locals’ skills!
Akon is certainly no stranger to the benefits of renewable energy, and is at the forefront of solar power’s growing application in Africa. His organization aims to supply electricity to the600 million Africans who do not currently have access by utilizing Africa’s intense sunlight.
Pavegen is experienced in the harnessing of kinetic energy from footfall, and hopes to build on endorsement from the likes of Stephen Hawking to revolutionise energy production in public areas. The global appeal of Akon, united with Pavegen’s expertise and Shell’s enormous worldwide influence suggests that the growth of such technology in other areas might not be far away.
Perhaps this technology’s greatest strength lies within how both healthy exercise and the use of renewable energy can be encouraged with ease. On one hand, developed countries may see the potential to counter obesity problems in their respective nations. Differently, many less developed nations- like Nigeria- are likely to prioritise the economic and social benefits that can be created through renewable energy. More pitches of this kind in developing nations could also have huge benefits in terms of both the number of children playing, and the progression of their soccer abilities.
However, the dispersion and growth of such technology will undoubtedly encounter hurdles. While it is hugely commendable that a superpower like Shell has helped fund such innovation, a reliance on funding in this manner may prove unreliable, despite the huge potential for companies’ public appearance enhancement. Indeed, the Lagos development is one of only 2 in the world, the other being unveiled in 2014 by the great Pelé in his native Brazil.
The question going forward will be whether the number of footfall and solar-powered pitches, like this example in Lagos, will continue to grow, and whether the inevitable hurdles can be overcome. Who knows, maybe the next African soccer superstar will have started playing on a pitch just like this.