Environment Forum

The power of a soccer ball

Anyone who watched the women’s World Cup final might have wondered if it’s possible to harness that pure human energy. Turns out, it is. There’s enough power in a soccer ball to light the night — or at least a part of it.

It’s done via sOccket, a soccer ball that kids kick around all day, where its movement generates energy. When the sun sets, plug an LED lamp into the ball and it turns into a light for reading or other purposes. Play with the sOccket for 15 minutes and use the light for up to three hours. Sustainable, non-polluting, safe.

SOccket was created to solve a pervasive problem — the lack of reliable electricity — with a pervasive game. More than one-fifth of the world’s population, about 1.4 billion people, lack electric power, but kids almost everywhere play soccer.

Conceived as a group project at Harvard University by Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman when they were undergraduates, sOccket has been tested in South Africa, Nigeria, Spain and Haiti. Now, Matthews said in a telephone interview, it’s on track for mass production and distribution later this year.

Testing has led to significant improvements, Matthews said from London. “We’ve pretty much changed everything from the prototype … One thing that people can expect is definitely a redesign of the soccer ball, to think of our end-user, which is the resource-poor child.” That includes making the internal mechanism a lot sturdier. Early versions lasted a few months; the new ones to be unveiled in August or September should last at least a year, she said.

Chinese solar player Yingli looks to score at World Cup

worldcupChinese solar power companies have shone amid the downturn in the solar industry,  converting their low cost advantage into bigger market share and profits.

Now, China’s Yingli Green Energy Holding Co Ltd is making a play to raise its global profile.  It’s taking its solar panels to the world’s biggest sporting event, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and has signed up to help sponsor the event.

The news makes Yingli the first renewable energy company to sponsor the World Cup — where the world’s best football (or soccer for U.S. fans) teams compete —  as well as the first Chinese company to seal a global sponsorship deal with FIFA, the world’s governing body for football.

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