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Harvesting Human Energy

Calling all dancers! Ballet, jazz, tango, ballroom, Zumba, breakdance, tap, disco, swing, line, hip-hop, pogo, calypso, square dance, cha cha, jerkin’…

You are an incredible source of untapped renewable energy!

Each footstep, each cabriole, each moonwalk, each jerk produces kinetic energy. This kinetic energy can be transformed into electricity to light up the stage upon which you dance, to power the audio system in your theatre, to charge the LED lights in your dressing room, or even to feed into the larger grid.

The Dutch company Energy Floors has created the world’s first dance floor that harvests human energy. Welcome to the Anthropocene.

By “making energy fun”, Energy Floors is committed to raising awareness about energy production and consumption (note: we humans can do both!) in a way that is interactive, tangible and more accessible than, say, remote utility-scale solar or wind farms or hydroelectric dams.

“When you install an energy floor,” explained Energy Floors CEO Michel Smit to CNBC, “then the public is part of the solution, they are part of the energy contribution of that location, which makes them much more involved.” According to the company’s website, “We believe that consciousness about energy and the impact we have on it are the main conditions to create a sustainable world.”

renewable energy, dance, floors, energy
Photo courtesy of Energy Floors

Energy Floors wants people to understand the simple fact that “energy is everywhere” – it just needs to be harvested. Think about this: the average person takes about 150 million steps in a lifetime. “That’s a lot of steps, right?” says Sylvia Meijer-Villafane, Director of Marketing & Communication for Energy Floors. ‘Now multiply that by the billions of people on the planet. Harnessing all that kinetic energy and converting it into electricity creates an incredible opportunity to ensure access to sustainable energy for people across the world. Adding solar panels [starting October 2017] to our energy tiles makes this opportunity even more worthwhile.”

Energy Floors is not the only company experimenting with “smart floors” – UK’s Pavegen and Italy’s Veranu focus primarily on the built environment, with installations across the globe. But Energy Floors was the first start-up to promote the concept that human dancing is a potential source of renewable energy.

How does this technology work? The floor tiles produced by these companies convert the small vertical movement of human footsteps/dancesteps into a very high rotational motion (on the order of 1,000s of rpm) that drives a tiny internal generator to produce off-grid electricity. More movement, more energy; more dancers, more electricity generated. A diagram is provided in the following video beginning at 00:48.

Theoretically, almost anything could be powered through the simple act of a human footstep, multiplied hundreds of thousands times per day in heavy foot-traffic areas such as train stations, airports, museums, sports arenas, movie theaters, music festivals and exercise studios. As it turns out, there is a huge opportunity for harvesting human energy.

To date, renewable energy headlines are dominated by wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric power. But human-powered renewable energy will surely become a “thing” in the not-too-distant future. There are many applications already. For example micro windmills – 1/15 of an inch wide – embedded into our clothing can generate electricity from the kinetic energy produced when we swing our arms or legs by walking, biking, running or dancing.

micro, wind, turbine, micro windmill, renewable, energy, kinetic
A micro-windmill is pictured on the face of a penny.

Alors on danse!

This article is part of the Renewable Energy series.


Joan Sullivan is a renewable energy photographer based in Québec, Canada. Since 2009, Joan has focused her cameras (and more recently her drones) exclusively on solutions to climate change. She is convinced that the inevitable transition to a 100% clean energy economy will happen faster – and within our lifetimes – by creating positive images and stories that help us visualize and embrace what a post-carbon future will look like.  Joan collaborates frequently with filmmakers on documentary films that explore the human side of the energy transition. She is currently working on a photo book about the energy transition. Her renewable energy photos have been exhibited in group shows in Canada and the UK. You can find Joan on Twitter and Instagram

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