A British company has found a novel way to combine the spirit of Christmas with environmental awareness. They've rigged up a shopping mall Christmas tree to their newly-developed paving slabs which harvest kinetic energy from ordinary footsteps. Jim Drury reports.
REPORTER: British start-up company Pavegen is brightening up festive shopping, encouraging consumers to light up a Christmas tree simply by walking. Busy shoppers in Milton Keynes temporarily abandoned last-minute spending to walk, or in many cases, jump on concrete slabs. The slabs transfer energy into an internal generation system at its core, supplying electricity to a battery via a wire connected to 1,000 tree lights. Pavegen founder Laurence Kembal-Cook explains.
LAURENCE KEMBAL-COOK: "As people walk on the slabs that energy is stored, so imagine an area like this shopping centre with many thousands of people each day , that energy's stored up from all the movements around in the site and that can then be used to go and be inverted, to go back into the mains supply , but also go into the lighting in the centre as a localised off-grid system."
REPORTER: Pavegen estimates almost eight billion kilowatts of fossil-fuel energy are used to power Christmas tree lights world-wide. Its slabs are constructed almost entirely from recycled material, and the company believes its technology is more efficient than other environmentally-friendly alternatives.
LAURENCE KEMBAL-COOK: "Now unlike solar and wind, where you obviously need solar and wind and you need the correct amount of wind it's very difficult in winter months, so where we are now in December there's very limited sunlight, but there's still people, there's even more people during this time, so you're always going to get the continuous footfall on demand when people actually need it."
REPORTER: The Pavegen tree has certainly proved popular with shoppers - and their children.
SCHOOLGIRL: "I think it's a really good way of helping climate change and the way people save power."
MAN: "I've been watching my daughter power the tree and it definitely works but I'd like to see examples in the real world maybe in a street and powering a house, that'd be great."
SCHOOLBOY: "A, you get your energy and b, it helps make your Christmas tree really looking good."
REPORTER: Pavegen slabs have been ordered for Europe's largest urban shopping centre - Westfield Stratford City, next to London's Olympic site. The firm also has other ambitious plans.
LAURENCE KEMBAL-COOK: "We're also going into a number of large offices as a way for all those people going in and out all day to power the lighting within the buildings. Also within the schools sector and then finally within transportation sector, so with train stations, bus stops, really anywhere with that high footfall is a key environment for us to be utilising that wasted energy."
REPORTER: Pavegen believe its future is as bright as the Christmas tree lights powered by their slabs. One thing's for certain - the company's put a spring back in the step of weary Christmas shoppers. Jim Drury, Reuters.