Akon Brings Africa Its First People-Powered Soccer Pitch

Akon Brings Africa Its First People-Powered Soccer Pitch

Nigerians love football and Senegalese-American rapper Akon has partnered with Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell and British clean-tech startup Pavegen in a renewable energy project in Lagos that powers a soccer pitch using football players’ energy.

The people-powered soccer pitch combines both kinetic and solar energy to produce electricity, Quartz reported.

Pavegen makes floor tiles that harvest energy. They’ve been tested in high foot-traffic spots including Heathrow Airport in London, Webster University in Missouri, Harrods department store and a train station in Saint Omer, France. Commuters’ footsteps help power LED lights and USB charging stations, according to a MotherNatureNetwork blog.

In 2014, Akon and his partners, Samba Bathily and Thione Niang, launched Akon Lighting Africa, focusing on beyond-the-grid investment in rural areas.

Akon Lighting’s success has been attributed in large part to the company’s ability to engage with communities, according to a press release for the upcoming Powering Africa Summit, scheduled for Jan. 27-29 in Washington, D.C.

Pavegen has demonstrated its people-powered floor-tile technology at festivals, expos and marathons.

The concept of people-generated power seems a natural pairing with love of sports. In Lagos, it takes “an incredibly smart — and sporty — approach to people-generated power through the reinvention of the humble soccer pitch,” according to an MMN blog.

The recently unveiled Lagos project at a teachers’ training college in Lagos isn’t the first of its kind in the world or the largest, but it’s a first for Africa.

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In 2014, Pavegen collaborated with Shell and Brazilian soccer legend Pelé on its largest installation — the redevelopment of a rundown community athletic field in Morro da Mineira, Rio de Janeiro. They transformed it into the world’s first player-powered soccer pitch.

The Lagos soccer pitch at the Federal College of Education in Akoka has 100 energy-harnessing tiles hidden beneath artificial turf that power floodlights and illuminate the grounds at night with help from an onsite solar array. Before, the area around the soccer pitch was dark after sunset. The Lagos college itself is powered by polluting diesel generators. The players’ motion has made the pitch safer and more accessible for all, MotherNatureNetwork reported.

Each time a Pavegen tile is stepped on, it can generate 7 watts of power, according to the company. Combined with the solar array, the battery-based system can power the pitch’s floodlights for up to 24 hours.

That may not be enough power to satisfy the needs of the average European, and Pavegen’s claims have been the subject of some scrutiny, according to a report in TheRegister.

By stepping on Pevagen tiles for four hours, “one person, during a day, will generate 28 watt-hours,” a Register blogger estimated. “For perspective, that’s about 0.0002 (percent) of the energy a modern-day European expends in a day – mostly by using transport, heating, food, industry…”

Then there’s Shell’s complicated history in Nigeria. One of the world’s leading oil companies, Royal Dutch Shell has long been under fire for its controversial practices in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria, AFKInsider report.

Laurence Kemball-Cook, founder of Pavegen, said the solar-powered pitch symbolizes possibilities, Quartz reported. “The project shows how the energy mix of the future will combine kinetic and solar power to improve communities.”

Here’s what Siji O. Olusanya, provost of the Federal College of Education, said in a press release put out by Shell:

We have more than 10,000 student teachers, who will benefit from this innovative solution to light our football pitch. They will be the next generation of teachers across Nigeria and can they use their first-hand experience of this pitch to inspire their pupils that they too can work towards developing bright energy ideas that could make a real difference to their community, Nigeria or even the world. Not only our students but the community that surrounds us will all get to benefit from this pitch for years to come.

In a video promoting the Lagos football pitch, Akon said, “Honestly, I wish it was my idea.”

New, reliable and smarter energy solutions play a major role in driving human progress in Africa, Akon said. “Projects like this innovative football pitch draw attention to the major opportunity that Nigeria as well as the whole of Africa have if we look to better harness new technologies and the continent’s abundant renewable energy resources.”

The soccer pitch will star in an upcoming music video for the song “Tell Me We’re Okay” by Akon and DJ Hardwork, according to MotherNatureNetwork.

Akon will join representatives from governments of South Africa, Mozambique, Egypt and Nigeria to discuss energy access at next week’s Powering Africa Summit in Washington, D.C., according to summit organizer EnergyNet Ltd.