The first thing to strike you as you’re walking down the Las Vegas Strip may not be the exorbitant amounts of money it probably takes to keep its sidewalks lit. Be that as it may, you will soon be chipping in to keep the bills low, and you won’t even know you’re doing it.
Las Vegas has partnered with a New York-based clean-tech startup called EnGoPlanet to help make its public lighting more sustainable. The startup was created after most of Manhattan suffered a week-long power outage in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Spurred by the realization that one of the world’s most well-known cities didn’t have an alternate energy source at scalable capacities, EnGoPlanet set about developing portable solar devices and off-the-grid power solutions.
The EnGoPlanet product that will be installed on the streets of Las Vegas is simply called the Street Light. Similar to other sustainable lighting solutions, it can run on solar energy; what makes the Street Light unique is that there’s a version of it that runs on a combination of solar energy and kinetic energy – the kind created by pedestrians walking.
The way EnGoPlanet manages to do this is by connecting the Street Light to durable energy tiles placed in close proximity. These tiles are able to harvest a maximum of 7W each time someone walks across them, and sends the generated power into a battery that channels it to the lights when required. Think of the system as a hamster wheel generator, except in this case pedestrians are (drunk) hamsters and the wheels are just sidewalk tiles.
While the kinetic pads are its most singular feature, EnGoPlanet’s Street Light offers a whole suite of functions aimed at both regular folks and city governing bodies.
For those tasked with the upkeep of municipal amenities, the Street Light’s main appeal lies in its environmental consciousness and its ability to keep energy bills low. Beyond that though, the lights come bearing a variety of sensors – light-on-demand sensors (to turn the lights on only when there are people in the vicinity), air quality sensors, temperature and humidity sensors – and also traffic monitors and video surveillance technology. The devices are WiFi compatible, so data from all these sensors can be accessed and analyzed in real time.
For city-dwellers, the EnGoPlanet offers a charging hub with two waterproof USB ports and one wireless charging pad. The street lights also come with a little attached bench, which is a thoughtful addition that many used to doing a lot of walking in the city will appreciate (those hotels are a lot further away from each other than they look).
EnGoPlanet makes it possible for its solar charging technology to be retrofitted onto existing street lights through the addition of a solar bracket and its LEDs; the kinetic energy pads and sensors are offered as optional add-ons.
Case studies carried out by the startup have shown that there are very real benefits to switching to its alternative energy devices. In one instance, it was calculated that an average street light consumed 1226 kWh of energy per year and costed $1380 to operate. After the EnGoPlanet Street Light was installed, the energy consumption became almost zero and the annual cost dropped to $100.
For Las Vegas, comparable savings would amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, not to mention the benefit it would provide to the planet in general. The smart street lights will also serve as an important addition towards its bid to becoming a designated US smart city.
Prateek Jose is a writer and engineering undergrad from India with an unhealthy obsession for obscure historical trivia. Conversations about absurdist fiction and the technological singularity make his day. He’s already uploading parts of his brain to servers by writing for websites such as this one.