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Harnessing the Power of the People
Sarah Rich, 28 Jun 06

There's something very appealing about the thought of generating the power we need with our own two feet. Every once in a while, a creative idea comes along for capturing kinetic energy; though most are symbolic at best, yielding miniscule amounts of power. But if you got enough people taking enough steps in one location consistently, perhaps the result would be more than just a nod towards alternative energy.

Take Club Double Dee, for example, a dance club in Rotterdam where lights and music are brought to you by the power of a booty-shaking crowd. (One hopes the dancers won't get tired all at once.) Another example emerges from the U.K. with the Pacesetters project, an architectural design plan to install staircases in public hubs that convert the energy of commuters' feet to an electrical current. As one article points out:

"In rush hour at Victoria Station, you have 34,000 people traveling through that space in one hour," said the architectural firm's director, Claire Price. "You don't need to be a math genius to realize that if you can harness that energyÂ… you can actually generate a very useful power source that is currently being wasted."

Merci, Roland!

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Power the escalators!!?

Posted by: Tony Fisk on 28 Jun 06

Hah! Good one Tony... but seriously, everyone should help their brother. I will walk/take the stairs so that you may ride. One day I may need to ride. How about energy producing NY City sidewalks, or better yet, energy producing escape routes for refugees of countries we invade.

Posted by: Chris Burt on 29 Jun 06

On a more serious note, can this be done without adding significantly to the perceived level of exertion? (ie by capturing 'waste energy' from when the striding foot is planted on the ground and stops... piezoelectrics in the floor tiles)?
It would probably have more opportunity in gyms: the power you generate from your workout can be offset to your membership fee: another incentive to get fit!

For the record, I walk up escalators.

Posted by: Tony Fisk on 29 Jun 06

Has anybody brainstormed ideas for applications (refugee scenario aside)? Speaking of gyms, what about the NBA and college hoops? How much foot pounding electricity could be generated during a ballgame? What about the entryways into the game? Concert venues? NASCAR? What kind of force does a racecar have when circling a track over and over? What about temporary units to be placed at the entrance of a street festival or county fair? Airport runways?

Posted by: Chris Burt on 30 Jun 06

25 years ago a group of University students and faculty of an engineering college created a community living space that had the playground see-saws pumping water up to the village water tank. The kids had a blast.

More closer to home ".... whenever he (Thomas Edison) guided visitors around the displays of gadgets that filled his home, someone would always ask, "With everything here so modern and innovative, why do your visitors still have to push their way in through that old-fashioned turnstile?" And Edison would laugh with delight and say, "Because, my friend, every single soul who forces his way through that old turnstile pumps three gallons of water up from my well and into my water tank."

Posted by: Subbarao Seethamsetty on 2 Jul 06

The University mentioned above was in Bogota, Columbia - Reference from the book "Gaviotas" -

Posted by: Subbarao Seethamsetty on 2 Jul 06

In my eyes this makes no sence, especially because I've been thinking about generating some energy in my new apartment myself with a cycling-generator. If you see that your own power is really really small compared to those you're dealing with every day, this can be quite depressive. The solar-panels on our roof have 3kW - the best I as a trained cyclist can make in one our is 200Wh - 1/15th. On the other side you can use this fact to tell people how much energy their way of living "consumes" - Driving an average European car (with a quite better fuel economy than the average US sold) for 100km can keep a cyclist going for 9000km.
My conclusion is that better take these techniques for people to realize their way of living being unsustainable as never before on this planet and drawing the right conclusions.

Posted by: Daniel L. on 2 Jul 06

Extracting any significant power causes a correspondingly significant increase in the level of exertion required. Evolution caused your body to optimize the amount of energy required to walk, run, etc, and you have a good internal feedback system (your brain) that tells you how to optimize in terms of "this feels harder/easier". Extracting a significant amount of energy from walking would cause it to feel like walking in waist-deep water, or climbing a staircase. A typical diet-guide will tell you how much energy you are expending in normal activities. For example, walking burns around 200 Calories in an hour, or 233 watt-hours (0.23 kilo-watt-hours). If you wanted to extract an added 100 watt-hours to power your 100 watt lightbulb for that hour, your walking just got at least 50% harder since the efficiency of the energy capture and conversion is well under 100%.

Posted by: Dan Goldwater on 4 Jul 06

Although you (Daniel L) have a good point on awareness, the point of this discussion is to come up with ideas and ways that energy can be created through the use of the masses vice one person in their home. Had Edison set out on a 10-miler through his turnstile, he would be pretty tired and would have little water to show for it, however, he had everyone else doing it for him. I think this example shows that expanding our outside-the-box thinking is important. To expand on one of the original ideas in the article, what if turnstiles participated in the energy production at Victoria Station? Or, to expand the seesaw idea a little further, what if they not only pumped water, but generated electricity? I don't really expect that would be a viable solution, but it's the thinking part that matters... you know, "two birds with one stone."

Posted by: Chris Burt on 5 Jul 06



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