Upcycling Energy: Burning Calories not Fossil Fuel!

Do you ever wonder how much created energy is lost every day? From the rapid halt of a subway car or an elevator, to the steady pace of our foot steps on a sidewalk, to the bounce of a dance floor, to all them spinning classes and street cyclists. If it is not apparent already, I do think about this. And these kinetic energy conducting activities happen all day with minimal outlets to create stored energy, so it all goes wasted. We don’t even necessarily conceptualize this energy to be of real value; it just happens to be a bi-product of the primary activities we engage in.

Just this morning I saw a great tweet on the feed for Beyond Coal–the Sierra Club’s initiative to phase out coal fired power plants and stop new ones from developing–about new exercise equipment being tested for gyms. The “Green System” ellipticals and bikes will A) feed energy back to the grid and B) Show exercisers how many watts they are producing. Similar products in existence are inverters that can be attached to various stationary bikes. This set up, which includes both the bike/elliptical and the inverter, will increase system efficiency by 40%, allowing for up to 70% of the energy created by exercisers to be returned to the grid. Additionally, programs to incentivize maximum energy production are in the works. Discounts on gym memberships and other prizes will be awarded to those who perform, which is of course why we are at the gym in the first place.  The pilot is set to launch at the Hotel Grand Pacific in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada this February.  But I think this could work in our over-achieving, competitive, vanity obsessed, future thinking city as well.

There are of course micro-scale examples of translating this energy into use. Occupy Wall Street campers were using bicycle power generators–only after the NYPD confiscated their gas fueled ones. The annual Coachella music festival has the Energy FACTory DJ Mixer, which is a power-cordless stage where musicians play their sets powered by the see-saws, bikes, and a human-hamster wheel that power the equipment. (Note, the video linked there talks about a whole slew of sustainability projects that people engage with at Coachella. Watch it!) And  on a similar note, there is the green dance floor that captures the energy of the party people upon it.  NYC apparently has a few of these. I have yet to encounter one, but let us know if you have!




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