Every year around this time, throngs of lively revelers descend upon Rio de Janeiro in celebration of the Brazilian Carnival, flooding the streets with colorful costumes, bumping music, dancing -- and, due to a shortage of public restroom facilities, a regrettable amount of, ahem, liquid waste. But this year, thanks to the introduction of new turbine-equipped urinals, full-bladdered merrymakers not only found a more appropriate place to relieve themselves, they actually helped power the party with their pee.
Sanitation issues arising from a shortage of public toilets has long led to stinky problems during Rio's world-famous Carnival, with hundreds being cited for public urination each year. With that in mind, one of the event's organizers, AfroReggae, teamed with the Brazilian publicity agency JWT to install first-of-their-kind urinals that convert the flow of a certain bodily fluid into energy -- which could then be used to partially power their Carnival float.Designers of the unique urinals, dubbed 'Electric Pee', say that energy is generated from the flow of urine passing over turbines, much like a hydroelectric plant. The power is then stored in batteries, which are then used to provide portable power to AfroReggae's sound system.
While there's no telling just how much electricity was actually produced by people's pee at this year's Carnival, chances are that urine-turbines did little to reduce the event's carbon footprint -- though it did help keep things a bit cleaner on the streets.
"We thought we’d turn a sore subject, which generated much controversy, into something lighter and fun. We will reward those who can hold it in a little longer and pee in the right place with lots of music,” says Ricardo John, CCO of JWT Brazil.
Sure, the flow of urine over restroom turbines will likely never overtake other renewables to meet our electricity needs -- but it's still fascinating to consider how some potential energy sources may actually be quite close at hand.
Just don't forget to wash them.