Final Five

Q&A with Laurence Kemball-Cook, founder and CEO of Pavegen Systems

Laurence Kemball-Cook, founder and CEO of Pavegen Systems 

Laurence Kemball-Cook is an industrial design engineer focused on "footfall energy harvesting." Most recently, Pavegen has been working on installing green energy panels in Scotland. The company has completed 100 projects in more than 30 countries, in train stations, shopping centers, airports and public spaces. 

Pavegen Systems 
Pavegen Systems 
Pavegen Systems 

What separates Pavegen's mission and vision from other green tech firms?

Pavegen places people at the heart of their own energy generation. Whereas traditional renewable energy sources don't allow for public engagement, our tiles can prove the potential of footfall energy, with each step directly powering applications such as lighting, phone-charging stations and real-time data.

Where can "footfall energy harvesting" be applied most immediately?

We're aiming to implement our technology in the city environment, particularly in transport and retail hubs. With a continuous flow of footfall traffic there is a much higher potential for the Pavegen tiles to harness renewable energy.

Are there logistical challenges to installing this technology in certain environments?

Logistically, shipping our tiles internationally is always a challenge; getting them past customs is always an interesting task. Installing in public spaces is also challenging at times, as we have to work with minimal disruption to everyone's daily routines.

How much energy can be produced by a single step, or even a brisk five-minute walk?

The tiles can generate up to 5 watts per step. So if you imagine one step powering a light for a few seconds, our tiles at the entrance of Oxford Circus station, for example, could power an entire array of streetlights through people's footsteps alone.

Why do you work on renewable energy technology? What drives your pursuits in that arena?

During my studies at Loughborough University, I underwent a placement year with one of the U.K.'s largest energy companies. They tasked me with finding a renewable source of energy that worked in the smart city environment – and I failed. Hanging my head in shame, I left the company to focus on that problem. Wind and solar were inefficient in cities due to limited floor and roof space as well as constantly changing weather. So I started to search for alternative sources of energy and focused on footsteps as a tangible option whilst watching people pass by in Victoria Station. Pavegen was founded shortly after that.

– Interview by David Brandt 

David Brandt is the Web managing editor for IIE.