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Power versus Energy

Posted on 6th November 2018

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I was very disappointed by this article, on the BBC. The issue of saving our planet by using technology is an important topic, but the journalist has made a complete dog's dinner of it.

The article refers to several means of recovering "surplus energy", using techniques to capture energy from the wind created by passing vehicles, and by people walking on power generating pavements. This is not actually surplus energy: energy that would otherwise be wasted. The technology in question creates more drag for passing vehicles,and makes it harder to walk (because the surface is soft, rather than hard). Although I agree that there could be health benefits for some pedestrians using more energy while walking, this is not true for all users of footpaths, There is, however, absolutely no environmental benefit from creating more drag for vehicles, which are mostly powered by fossil fuels, and generating electricity from it; the only worse solution is to generate electricity from coal.

What really shows the poor quality of the journalism, however, is the statement that a battery made from power station waste can store 500 Watts of energy (the report has now been updated to remove this piece of nonsense - I assume that someone else complained). 500 Watts is a measure of power (i.e. how fast a battery can be charged); energy (a battery's capacity) is typically measured in Joules (or Kilowatt hours).

It is such a shame that Tim Bowler (the writer of this article) couldn't do this vital topic justice.