Powering their way to health in Hong Kong. (California Fitness photo)
I enjoyed Dan Shapley's piece on trees producing measurable amounts of electricity. It reminded me of Ronald Reagan's famous statement that "Trees pollute" - it's good to know they're useful for something. But when it comes to generating juice, what about good old sweat equity? Yes, we humans can generate our own electricity.
A visit to the Radio Shack this week revealed a sale on crank radios, evidently a guard against hurricane-induced blackouts. This one had a flashlight built in, but I'm not sure if you can listen to the radio and shine the light at the same time. There's a whole page of cranked radios here, and some of them come with the weather band. You can also crank to the beat while listening to hip-hop.
Perhaps the most famous example of human power is actor and passionate environmentalist Ed Begley, Jr.'s exercise bike. At Ed's home in Studio City, California, he pedals for 10 minutes every morning to produce enough electricity to run his toaster.
Begley explained how he produces energy with a bicycle each morning to make his breakfast toast. Just 10 minutes of pedaling generates enough power, stored in the batteries for his solar power system, to run the toaster. Mother Earth News has plans for making your own Begley-type bike. It produces 30 amps peak and 5 to 10 amps continuous, and if you add an ammeter you can keep score.
If you just want to prove it can be done, there's the Human Power Generator, with hand cranks. The entrepreneurs behind it suggest hooking up a light, a DC television, a small water pump or anything else that might impress your friends. "The amount of electrical power that can be generated by the Human Power Generator is determined by the energy available to turn the crank," they deadpan. "The stronger the user, the more electrical power can be produced." The typical output is about 60 watts (if you use the foot pedals) or 35 watts (with handcranks).
Of course, pedals can be used for transportation, and here are 17 of those options, from blimps to ultra-lightweight planes to boats-even rollercoasters and hovercraft.
The Sustainable Dance Club turns dance steps into electricity, and Hong Kong's California Fitness captures all that calorie burning as electricity stored in batteries. The faster you pedal, the brighter the light in front of you. As Inhabitat reports, the gym's 13 step, cycle and cross-training machines are very popular. According to gym member Rita Wong, "It's very good motivation. You can watch yourself burning fat to turn on the light."
Finally, I spent an hour on the phone today with Meetesh Patel, CEO of New Energy Technologies. Over the Labor Day Weekend they set up their technology at a New Jersey Burger King and captured energy from customers headed through the drive-through to buy Whoppers. The idea is that the cars drive over a treadle, which turns a shaft and creates electricity to be stored by a flywheel. It both captures electricity and acts as a traffic-calming device by slowing cars down.
That's not direct human power, but it's close. Maybe you can think of something else to do with your excess energy!
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.