US gain as Toulouse Loses People Power

Prolific pavement pounders – joggers and flaneurs — anticipating helping Toulouse harvest pedestrian energy to light street lamps via kinetic pavement slabs are now destined for disappointment.

Now the pavement harvester departs Toulouse | Photo © Philippe LEJEAILLE •

Two years after one of the most innovative new ideas in a panoply of advanced projects  introduced by a council team under dynamic deputy mayor Alexandre Marciel, the  promising  pavement energy harvesting pilot has been dismantled. Worse a local entrepreneur initially keen to develop the project commercially has sold his rights to a North American company.

The difficulty apparently arose in convincing funders, central government bureaucrats and potential backers that industrial scale production of the energy harvesting pavement slabs, sensors and lighting converters, so successfully piloted in Toulouse in May 2010 was viable.

Laurent Villerouge, chairman of VIHA Concept, a Toulouse-based SME told French News Online that after failing to gain official support and private backing for setting up an industrial operation in France, he approached the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which in turn led to a deal with Harvest NRG, a US firm focused on harvesting energy from trains, planes and motor vehicles for power generation.

“The Trotelec sidewalk energy harvester and my energy harvesting technology rights have been sold to Harvest NRG which has plans to mass produce and market the pavement power harvester. Clearly I hope that Toulouse will eventually be one of the early customers for the slabs given the city’s role as a pioneer in the pilot,” he said.

Expressing his disappointment Alexandre Marciel told French News Online — one of the first newspapers to report on the initial electrifying development — that: “Unfortunately, the inertia of our institutions, a reluctance on the part of local  banks, lack of seed capital to finance prototypes of key innovations and a major mindset problem – namely an inability to conceptualise new sources of power such as  ‘energy harvesting’ as part of the overall energy mix  — have resulted in the expatriation of the Toulouse project”.

As French News Online reported in April last year pavement pounding in Toulouse was all set to become an officially encouraged leisure activity as  citizens set about powering-up the city.  Flaneurs out strolling or shopping seemed happy to know that as they used up their shoe leather they were helping generate power for the street lights of France’s 5th largest city.

Despite the successful pilot and the enthusiastic public response   – M. Marciel told us the project had been visited by interested officials from local authorities around Europe and elsewhere – the transition from a pilot to a viable manufacturing operation has proved insurmountable.

Toulouse’s loss of this catchy energy harvester is likely to be  someone else’s gain.

Story: Ken Pottinger


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One Response to US gain as Toulouse Loses People Power

  1. Pingback: Toulouse Unveils Sunflower Power on the Streets | FrenchNewsOnline

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