Have you ever wondered what happens to the fat that people shed when they exercise? It is sent off into the atmosphere as sweat and vapour due to the heat created in the body: in other words, heat is generated. That, of course, is the essence of power generation. So it is still a mystery to me why all machines in the gym are not hooked up to the power grid, at least harvesting the means to running the gym, but my guess is that a busy place would be pumping energy back into the power grid and replacing coal-generated electricity.
There is a Dutch born chap in Nimbin (we did a story on him once twenty or so years ago for a TV show I worked on) the locals called Peter Pedals (he was born “Peter Van der Wyk”) and he would sit on his bike for around 15 seconds (to get it to maximum speed) to create the energy to run a spin clothes drier that would spin to remove the moisture from his clothes. He was angry about pollution and decided to take the matter into his own hands, or calves, actually!
You can create a charge for all your electrical appliances with pedal power, even that guzzling plasma screen. Just get the kids to sit on bikes and pedal while they watch their favourite movie.
A great example of pedal power are bike blenders – which use the energy created by riding the bicycle to blend your smoothie!
It is clean energy as long as you put a waterproof sheet under the bikes to catch the sweat …
But seriously, pedal-powered generators make good sense, especially in areas where lots of bikes are uses, ie. The gym Spin classes.
The Rainbow Power Company which Peter Pedals founded in 1987 would know how this is done, being pioneers (once laughed at) in the field of clean energy.
Now he has an e-bike, an electrically assisted pedal-bike with a solar-powered battery to help him traverse the steep hills in the Nimbim area, where he still lives. I remember that he said that the notion of ‘working for the man’ back in the 80s demanded he sacrifice his ethics, and he set about making a living in a completely ethical way. Thus, the idea of installing and educating people about clean energy was born.
The Aussie Government’s solar rebates have been a boost in the competitive energy market tempting people to make the switch. Previously, only hippies and remote farmers had solar. Now you see panels in the cities not just on those phone boxes in the Simpson desert. The grid system is democratic too as you can plan to create an excess and you will find that when everyone has the same idea, gradually the coal generators will die out.
Check your power company for its green rating and you will also find that they can help you make the changeover. What will happen is that you will be given a different meter that calculates the power gathered by your solar system and minuses your usage. You will always get a bill for a very small amount (just a connection fee) but the difference is that excess power goes against your bill, accumulating to balance up any future usage. Say you are on holidays? Then your roof continues to collect energy and when you return, you will have a nice little energy bank of clean power. Origin Energy has the name for green power, but I would check all the companies, or discuss with someone like the chaps at Going Solar or Northcote’s Environment shop. Just remember, 92% of our electricity is supplied by coal-fired power stations and this is what is stopping us signing the Kyoto protocol, not the flatulent cows.
But back to the pedals.
Everyone should have a bicycle. And use it.
Holland is by far the best place I have ever been in regard to bicycle power. There are clear and large designated lanes and it is an absolute pleasure to ride around the streets.
Vietnam has umpteen bikes and very thin, elegant people. The streets are shared, no specific lanes but somehow it all works. Cannot get over the fact that those girls ride with their slender ao dais, their straw hats, gloves and masks to protect their lovely skin! There are occasional accidents but somehow, the procession of bikes parts like the Red Sea when anyone wants to go through.
Imagine if ‘The Biggest Loser’ went green! Surely the exertions of those tragic (but motivated) losers (of weight) could translate into enough power to run the show!