UWE Bristol scientists generate record amount of electricity from urine at Glastonbury Festival 2019

Issue date: 31 July 2019


Researchers behind technology that converts urine into electricity generated a record amount of power at this year's Glastonbury Festival.

A team of academics from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) have been taking their PEE POWER® system to the festival since 2015, installing a urinal block to trial the technology and raise awareness of sustainable sanitation.

Now the researchers have analysed the performance of the urinal and discovered three times more power was generated in 2019 compared with the system installed at the Glastonbury 2017 event.

The urinal, located near the Pyramid Stage, powered lighting inside the toilet block and provided electricity for handheld gaming devices made available for festival-goers to play on as well as for electro-valves for automating the feedstock flow into the system's microbial fuel cell (MFC) modules.

Data captured by academics showed 400 litres of urine were processed on each day of the festival, generating 288Wh (Watt-hours). Over four days, this is equivalent to the power needed to light a 30-room hotel or office block for an hour, or to charge 57 USB-powered electronic devices for an hour.

The PEE POWER® system is being commercialised, as announced last year, and introduced to schools in remote or off-grid areas in the developing world. The technology could eventually be installed in refugee camps, slums and hospitals.

More than 5,000 people used the urinal block at Glastonbury this year. Of the 4,750 submitting feedback, 92 per cent said the system had given them more confidence about sustainable sanitation through technology deployment. Seventy-seven people completed a full survey, with the vast majority agreeing the technology had changed their awareness of the situation of the billion people without access to electricity or adequate sanitation.

Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, Director of the Bristol BioEnergy Centre at Bristol Robotics Laboratory, said: “It was the biggest success we've had at Glastonbury. We even generated a surplus of energy, meaning the lights in the block remained lit for the week following the end of the festival. The interaction with the public was fantastic - some said the technology was 'amazing' and 'ingenious' and were even asking when it would be arriving in people's homes.”

Dr Xavier Walter, who worked on system during the festival, said: “We retained the same footprint of the urinal block this year but the technology is getting smaller as we refine it, so we were able to include three times as many microbial fuel cells. We're aiming to generate even more electricity at the 2020 event.”

The team's presence at Glastonbury is the result of a close collaboration with partners Oxfam, log cabin and garden building specialists Dunster House and WhiffAway in a collective effort to improve lives in refugee camps and areas of the world with no sanitation or electricity.

The PEE POWER® demonstration is the flagship research project of a formal partnership between Glastonbury Festival and UWE Bristol signed in 2017 focusing on sustainability projects including waste reduction and energy efficiency.

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