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Human Powered Generators: Cheap and Easy Renewable Energy

By Michelle Martin


Tags: human powered generators, Empower Playgrounds, renewable electricity, motion power,

Human-powered generators cleverly derive electricity from something we already use in abundance — human movement — offering an easy way to tap renewable energy for anyone interested in a low-impact lifestyle. In the past, a few dedicated individuals have used contraptions like bicycle generators to help power their homes, while campers and disaster-ridden populations have long depended upon hand-crank appliances, like radios. These contraptions convert the force of human motion into renewable energy, which in turn powers your appliances. Capturing this free and abundant power source for electricity continues to become increasingly streamlined and efficient with time. Here are a few creative ways others have turned everyday movement into energy powerhouses.

Children's Playtime Energy Powers Gadgets

Every day 200 schoolchildren in Essam, Ghana spin around their favorite toy, a merry-go-round, as they simultaneously light up their school building's LED bulbs. Empower Playgrounds develops playground equipment that converts the energy of children's play into electricity for rural African villages. In 2008 the non-profit sponsored students from Brigham Young University to help Ghanaians merrygoroundinstall the merry-go-round, constructed with recycled car parts available within Ghana. In fact, the merry-go-round was designed for Ghanaians to assemble it easily in the future, with materials already abundant. Turning the structure at 12 revolutions per minute creates power to store in car batteries, which powers the LED lights inside the building. The lights can run for 50 hours without needing another boost. Empower Playgrounds has constructed nine merry-go-rounds in Ghana, alongside a swing set. A zip line is in progress.

A few adventurous individuals have taken the idea a step closer to home by making their own motion generating swing sets.

And if you're tired of replacing batteries for your children's toys, SONY sells a line of motion-powered toys for children called ODO, which includes video and still picture cameras and headphones. These gadgets, created with recycled materials or Bioplastic, power themselves with simple actions like cranks or buttons.

Human Power Revolving Door Powers Train Station

Consider every object you move in a day — every door you push through, every button you press, and every time you turn the steering wheel. What if you captured all of the energy that you routinely spend and turned it into electricity?

door2 

Boon Edam, a revolving door and turnstile manufacturer, wondered the same thing. Thus, the company developed a revolving door that generates electricity from the commuters who push through it every day. The first one, created in 2008, beckons customers into the Driebergen-Zeist train station in the Netherlands. The energy generated by the door (approximately 2.5 times greater than the energy usage of the average European), powers the LED lights in the ceiling, which can switch to an alternative energy supply in case too few passengers travel through the door.

Boon Edam claims that the energy conserved by their revolving doors worldwide has exceeded 735,000 kWh to date, more than the small island of Monhegan uses in two years. That translates into a reduction of  over 730,000 pounds of CO2 emissions. 

Photos courtesy of Brigham Young University and Boon Edam 

 

t brandt
11/29/2012 12:01:30 PM

And I'd bet the energy needed to mine, refine & use the copper windings in the generators, then deliver them to the manufacturer and then deliver & install the doors exceeds the energy generated by them. We do need to keep thinking to stay ahead of the game, but wishful thinking & fantasies won't solve the problems. We need to accept the fact that The Philosopher's Stone just won't turn lead into gold and quit wasting time, talent & resources on dead-ends-- particularly when it involves tax-payers' money for subsidies for economically unfeasable dreams.


andrew straub
11/28/2012 8:51:55 PM

Read carefully..."their revolving doors." If all of the revolving doors worldwide were converted to the generating type, I am positive that this number would be drastically higher. I only found this page because I had the idea today to convert ALL doors to the generating type. I haven't looked much into it, but it just seemed like a lot of energy that could be generated by simply walking in and out of a structure. Suffice to say, I applaud their effort to find energy in smart places. Maybe if more people biked those 20 miles to get their BK Whopper we wouldn't have to generate electricity from doors.


t brandt
3/25/2012 11:44:57 AM

Revolving doors supplied 735,000kW-hr of elctricity? That's ~ one ten- billionth of the world's yearly usage....And 730,000 lb of co2? That's~ one one hundred millionth of the co2 in the atmosphere. Big deal....It's very easy to take a car alternator and hook it up to a stationary bike and peddle it to charge a battery. Then the energy really comes from the food you eat. It takes about one BK Whopper to power a 20 mile bike ride.


mathre ranga
3/25/2012 3:57:15 AM

Is it possible to interconnect large number of hand crancked dynomos to a grid and store / use electricity? For example, say, about 100 or more people hand crank a dynomo for 15 munutes or more simultaniously, can the energy be stored / used? The idea is, in Indian pholosophy SHRAMDAAN (donating physical labour for community work is considered sacred). Large number of persons stand in long queues for several hours to have Darshan (sight of Lord) in temples (Tirupathi, Shird etc) who are in devine mood (idling) and their energies can be channeled to produce power while they are waiting, for consumption with in the temple / nation. A large number of wall mounted dynomos are placed all along the route / room and devotees hand crank while chanting the secred name of the Lord as a source of service to the Lord - Is this idea feacible / workable?


holly jones_4
6/22/2010 12:10:57 PM

I have often wondered why freeways can't be turned into generators as cars run over them.


mwills4048
6/12/2010 3:03:42 PM

That is one of the most ingenious things I have ever seen. Why can't we install these in all of our schools and public buildings? Can you imagine the energy savings? The reduction in greenhouse gases? Do you think President Obama reads these blogs? Let's make these doors part of the stimulus package!


katelyn _2
6/11/2010 3:40:03 PM

Speaking of human powered generators, does anyone know where we can find something similar to the Weza, which is a step treadle generator? The manufacturer has discontinued it and when I called today said there are no plans to release a new model.


bigdipper
6/11/2010 10:38:30 AM

I remember Mom hollering at us kids - "Stop running in and out of the house! And quit slamming the door! Either stay in or stay out!" If Mom and Dad had one of those revolving door generators, they could have retired early AND rich.