Power to the people

Harnessing human power

It’s the original alternative energy: human power. But by riding just your bike, skateboard or Big Wheel to and from work are you getting the most out of your personal power plant? New uses for harnessed human power are being invented every day. In Rotterdam, Holland, a danceclub is converting the kinetic energy of dancers into power with the Sustainable Dance Floor (www.sustainabledanceclub.com). In Portland, Ore., The Green Microgym is equipped with retrofitted workout equipment that generates electricity and sends it back to the club. Then there’s the impressive “crowd farming” technology, invented by a couple of MIT students, wherein the weight of thousands of walking humans in crowded areas (concerts, subways, etc.) could be converted to power via tiled blocks that depress when people walk along them.

If you want to add more human power to your own sustainability efforts, there are several bike and pedal generators on the market that can be used to offset energy costs by converting your personal workout into power for things such as cell phones, MP3 players, LED lights and computer monitors (the Human Power Generator, $550 from www.windstream.com is a popular one). But if you have basic mechanical skills a less expensive alternative is San Jose inventor David Butcher’s Pedal Powered Prime Mover. The material cost for building your own PPPM is around $200, and the plans are $50: www.los-gatos.ca.us/davidbu/pedgen.html.