What is the likely impact of your idea? How will it help ensure that World Heritage sites are preserved? (150 words max)
The immediate impact of our idea is that it will harness the power of visitors to World Heritage sites to create electricity that can then power those sites. In effect, this offsets the impact of tourism associated with powering those heavy usage sites (lighting, climate control, etc), and at the same time lowers the cost of operating the sites. The resulting cost savings can then be reinvested in the preservation of the sites through routine maintenance and restoration work. And if the volume of traffic is enough to create a surplus of energy, that surplus can then be stored for lower traffic times or even transferred into the local power grid to reduce the entire community’s usage of power from high-emissions fossil fuel power plants. Additionally, this technology could bring power to rural or remote sites, and help foster sustainable tourism without having to build an intrusive or costly infrastructure.
What makes your idea innovative? How is it a sustainable, green technology? (150 words max)
What makes our idea innovative is that it flips the traditional relationship of increasing tourism and increasing environmental impact by using the act of tourism itself to actually decrease environmental impact. As a result, the economic benefit provided by tourism is effectively doubled, since any revenue from admission is matched by a reduction in costs. Our idea is completely green in that piezoelectric generators have zero emissions once installed, and both capture waste energy from fossil fuel powered vehicles (effectively increasing their fuel efficiency), and reduce usage of power from fossil fuel power plants. With enough adoption, this technology could help significantly reduce global emissions. And piezoelectric power is completely sustainable, both in that it is created through the daily renewing resource of normal traffic and that the generators have no moving parts and so require little to no maintenance for up to 30 years.
What would it require to launch or spread your idea? How much would it cost to make your idea a reality? (150 words max)
Launch would require installing piezoelectric tiles into floors, sidewalks, and roadways in and around a site, so each person who walks through or drives past will be helping to power it. In terms of scale, our idea can be launched at a single World Heritage site, or expanded to every street in every city in the world. Piezoelectric generators are completely unobtrusive, and can be installed throughout urban centers, the areas most plagued with the externalities of high energy consumption. And almost no additional infrastructure is necessary because the energy is being produced and consumed in the same place. At their current, early stage of development, piezoelectric generators are estimated to have cost profile similar to wind power (about $0.03-0.10/kWh), though with a return on investment in about half the time. Our hope is that, as the technology advances, it will become much cheaper and even easier to install.