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business models, strategies and technologies

From big-scale energy generation to scavenging energy from movement

Moya Power sheets make it possible to harvest and scavenge energy from within existing urban infrastructure – making the most of energy that’s there instead of churning out new.

The United Nations apparently estimates that two-thirds of the population of the world will live in cities as of 2050. This will mean the demand for energy in urban areas will increase dramatically. Is the infrastructure of our society capable of meeting this demand?

One approach might be to decentralise power generation, moving it closer to the residents who need it. Another might be to use existing infrastructure to generate more power, rather than continuing the never-ending investment spiral. A London-based startup seems to combine both these approaches, with an innovative approach that also redefines the vocabulary and mindset associated with the energy sector and how it does what it does.

From generating to scavenging

Moya Power says they are researching and developing a clean wind energy solution that does not rely on the availability of limited urban real estate or expensive infrastructure. Instead, the company employs lightweight sheeting materials to harvest – note this word, rather than generate – low-grade wind energy, which is most abundantly available in and around existing infrastructure. The focus is on vibration and low-speed, turbulent wind forces that are capable of generating power round the clock, using equipment that can be mounted on existing but otherwise unused structures and surfaces – often hidden from public view.

Unfortunately, the company is still a bit weak on explaining itself or how this is actually done (apart from this YouTube film), so I had to scavenge info from a variety of secondary sources to suss out the actual technology involved, and how it works. The Moya Power idea is apparently based on piezo-electric textiles that gain or generate energy from movement. In a pilot project underway in 2018 in the underground tunnels of the London Crossrail train system, Moya set up grids of lamella-covered polyvinylidene fluoride plastic sheets that feature wave-like filaments.  The natural draft and constant air movement resulting from trains passing through the tunnels make these filaments flutter, and it is this movement that generates tiny amounts of electricity that can then be stored in a battery. OK, it’s not energy generation on a huge scale, but every little helps.

Additional not instead

The Moya system apparently only has 10% of the generation capacity per square metre of area, compared with solar panels, and the yield is low compared to traditional wind power. This system will never be able to power whole cities, but the perspective is that Moya Power setups are just a single element in a mix of urban energy sources.

It’s also important to focus on the company’s “energy scavenging” tag line. We’d be making the most of energy that’s actually there (largely overlooked and under-utilised) rather than using resources to churn out new. Any energy that is freely available and that only requires a minimum of infrastructure to exploit is going to be of high value, with a good cost/benefit ratio. Basically, the Moya rethink involves making captured energy accessible – it’s about energy recovery rather than energy generation, thus placing it in a completely different “energy accounting” context compared with traditional power sources.


Perhaps one of the most exciting features of the Moya system is that – unlike virtually any other power generation set up – it is not intrusive. Power plants, wind turbines, hydroelectric generators, wave power systems and solar panels all intrude on our surroundings, with varying degrees of elegance. And environmental impact.

Installation on the London Crossrail train system provides a good idea of the kind of context/backdrop for using Moya-style technology, which the company points out is:

  1. Light in weight, so it’s easy to mount on existing infrastructure
  2. Flexible, so it can adapt to many different surfaces and mounting contexts
  3. Semi-transparent, so it allows light to pass through and can even be mounted outside windows

In the future, the Moya Power invention could be mounted in varying ways on tower blocks, in road cuttings, in tunnels or on bridges – harvesting and scavenging energy in the windiest parts of any urban space. High buildings and other tall, long or deep urban structures could become sites for energy generation, with softly undulating exterior surfaces. The grey concrete necessities and steel slabs of our existing infrastructure could be turned into the most visually appealing and even productive surfaces in our surroundings …