Human Powered Generators: Cheap and Easy Renewable Energy

| 5/28/2010 2:36:27 PM

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?


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.

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.

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