Harvesting the power of the wind is an old idea but it’s also very up-to-date: today’s wind turbines have largely replaced the windmills operating in Cervantes’ day. Figures from 2016 show that 3.9% of the electricity generated in France that year came from windfarms, while the equivalent percentage for the United States in 2017 was 6.33%. However, as new techniques appear, these percentages could well increase. One such approach is the idea conceived by UK-based startup Moya Power – to use the draught arising from the passage of a train inside a tunnel to generate power.
This novel solution is based on the piezoelectric effect, whereby energy is captured from movement. Flexible semi-transparent plastic sheeting installed inside the tunnels of UK’s Crossrail network will be able to convert even tiny quantities of energy from the train ‘breeze’ into usable electricity, which will then be stored in batteries. The plastic sheeting has the advantage of being really light and the model is easily replicable. Apart from the project now underway with the soon-to-open Crossrail link, Moya’s wider aim is to ‘scavenge’ small amounts of energy by using all kinds of existing urban infrastructure where it is unfeasible to use traditional solutions such as installing solar panels. This looks like a most welcome initiative in a world where demand for energy in towns is rising rapidly, at least as quickly as the urban population itself.By Sophia Qadiri