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How poo and dancing might power our homes

Cities across the globe are trialling innovative initiatives to make strides in renewable energy

Ed Cunningham
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Ed Cunningham
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The London Underground is good for a lot of things. Getting around an enormous city, for one. But since 2020, it’s also been the unlikely energy source for 550 homes (and an entire school) in the north of the city. Now, that joint project between Islington Council and Transport for London could be rolled out on a much wider scale to other parts of the capital. That’s great news for London and the planet.

But the UK capital isn’t the only city thinking pretty creatively when it comes to renewable energy. Venice, for instance, has turned to its notoriously smelly, neon-green algae, which can be used to capture methane – a renewable fuel source. The city is building a £200 million biomass-powered steam generator that it hopes will soon meet more than 50 percent of its energy demand.

Then there’s Grand Junction in Colorado, USA, which has been harnessing another kind of biofuel: human poo. The city processes raw sewage through a wastewater treatment plant, turning it into a natural gas called biomethane, which is then used to power public services like bin lorries, buses and street-cleaning vehicles.

Also getting in on the act is Buenos Aires. The Argentinian capital has started capturing methane leaking from decaying trash and turning it into power. Because of that, the Norte III landfill site achieves something of an environmental double whammy: it finds a use for immense amounts of waste and reduces the volume of methane (a greenhouse gas) escaping into the atmosphere.

But energy innovation isn’t all about gross stuff. Scientists in Rotterdam have recently developed a way of generating electricity… by dancing. A startup called Energy Floors has created ‘floor modules’ that allow clubs and other buildings to power themselves entirely by people moving around those spaces.

All of this is pretty damn inspiring. Perhaps someday soon using clubbers, stinky water and rubbish tips to generate energy will become the norm worldwide. Who’d have thought your next shit or boogie might help save the planet?

Got five minutes to spare? Want to tell us what life is like in your city? Take the Time Out Index survey here.

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