Just last month December 2015, Senegalese born music superstar Akon in his recent drive to help Africa harvest its vast renewable energy, joined Shell to shine light on the power of innovative options for access to smarter energy, with the unveiling of Africa’s first human and solar-powered football pitch at the Federal College of Education, Akoka, Lagos, Nigeria.
The development is part of Shell’s latest initiative #makethefuture programme, which puts bright energy ideas into action to bring benefits to local communities around the world. The unveiling was done by popular music sensation who is an ambassador for renewable energy, Akon.
Located at a teacher’s college in Lagos,Nigeria’s commercial center, the innovative soccer pitch was launched last year in a three-way collaboration between energy giant Shell, music star Akon, who has been championing solar energy on the continent, and Pavegen, a UK-based start-up which has a target of providing low-cost renewable energy solutions to Africa’s electricity problems.
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The new soccer pitch uses more than 90 underground tiles, placed underneath the turf to capture kinetic energy created by the movement of the players. The generated energy is then stored and combined with power generated by solar panels to operate the new floodlights. This bright energy idea allows the students to play at night – and provides a safer and more secure space at the heart of the community.
Pavegen technology makes use of pitch ‘tiles’ the invention of a young British entrepreneur and founder of Pavegen, Laurence Kemball-Cook, (who has been supported through Shell LiveWIRE) which generates electricity by capturing kinetic energy from footfall. Perhaps the most interesting technological feature of the solar-powered pitch—only the second ever launched across the world (the first was launched in Brazil in 2014)—is that it combines both kinetic and solar energy to produce electricity.
Typically, as the amount of electricity generated is dependent on the volume of footfall, Pavegen’s technology is best suited for high foot traffic areas. As such, schools, sports centers, markets are practical targets. According to Pavegen technologies, the solar-powered pitch is a symbol of possibilities. “The project shows how the energy mix of the future will combine kinetic and solar power to improve communities.”
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The official opening of the pitch was done by Shell officials and were joined by the Senegalese music icon, Akon. The music star, through his pet project, Akon Lighting Africa, is letting the younger African generation know how to tap into the vast potential in renewable energy. His efforts if imbibed, will provide African communities access to cheap and healthy sources of electricity through developed solar-powered solutions. Akon also debuted his new song which is set to be released in later in the year, “Tell Me We’re OK” which he did with DJ artist Philip “Hardwork” Constable, in an exclusive performance as part of the celebration.
“New, reliable and smarter energy solutions play a major role in driving human progress in Africa,” said Akon.
“Projects like this innovative football pitch draw attention to the major opportunity that Nigeria as well as the whole of Africa has if we look to better harness new technologies and the continent’s abundant renewable energy resources. That is why Hardwork and I will feature this pitch in our upcoming video for “Tell Me We’re OK” because I want young people, whether they are in Lagos, Los Angeles or London to think about how they too can help us make the future.”
Osagie Okunbor, Country Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria and Managing Director of The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) said anbout the project:
“Shell makes a significant contribution to energy solutions for Nigeria, and we are committed to supporting the Nigerian economy and its people. We need bright energy ideas. Some of these will come from Shell but naturally, others will come from outside our business. So it is crucial that Shell supports energy entrepreneurs, and we hope that this pitch will inspire more entrepreneurs and young people to help us make a smarter energy future.”
According to Shell on its website, the new soccer pitch – among other benefits – is aimed at inspiring entrepreneurs, and bright energy ideas, that open up access to energy in Africa and beyond. Launched in Nigeria in 2003, Shell LiveWIRE is an international programme that has been a catalyst for young entrepreneurs to develop enterprising ideas into viable and sustainable businesses for more than 30 years and has trained more than 6,000 youths in enterprise development and management, of whom more than 3,000 have been provided with business start-up assistance.
Laurence Kemball-Cook, Pavegen founder and CEO and Shell LiveWIRE UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist in 2011, said,
“Our work with Shell has been pivotal to Pavegen’s growth. We got involved with Shell LiveWIRE and Shell Springboard, and both programmes have really helped us transition from a start-up to a small company with a 25-strong staff and global IP. I’m grateful for all the support Shell has given us, and hope we can continue to grow in the smart city future.”
Siji O. Olusanya, Provost of the Federal College of Education, Akoka, added:
“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 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.”