A New Kind of People Power

Drexel and Temple students are sweating it out to create electricity

Photo from usatoday.com.

As climate change haunts the globe and worries over the environment increase, the quest for renewable energy sources has become a top priority. Fortunately, Drexel and Temple students have found a pretty good one: themselves. Drexel’s new Recreation Center features 14 elliptical machines that feed energy created during a workout back into the building through a generator and inverter.

According to this Philly.com article, 30 minutes on one such machine can “power a desktop computer for 15 minutes, a laptop for 30 minutes, or a compact fluorescent bulb for 75 minutes, or… a TV for seven minutes.” In this case, the wattage lights up a galvanizing neon “I am a Dragon” sign. The gym also has stationary bikes with cell-phone charging outlets.

Over at Temple, an environmental student group, owners of green clothing line Verde Styles, put together a team of four bikes that powered a DJ booth for Power Down Philly, a green-awareness event that took place on August 11th. This weekend, Verde Styles will also provide bikes to power the sound system at Manayunk’s Eco Arts Festival.

Maybe this people-powered energy won’t solve the current crisis, but it is certainly a step forward not only in making people more eco-aware, but also more active. Imagine if, instead of lazily snacking on potato chips while watching your favorite re-runs, you actually had to work to keep your TV on? Exercise for an hour to store power for half of the next episode of The Office, and you could burn around 500 calories in the process. Plus, over time, you may save a few bucks on your electricity bill.

According to the article, assembling at-home systems can be easy if you have the parts (all you need is a bike, a training wheel, and a 12-volt generator). But even if you don’t, think of the benefits our town could reap if say, our schools adopted a few machines. Maybe the district would reinstitute PE if, instead of dodgeball, kids could pedal to power a TV on which they watch a history documentary. So that’s exercise, education, and energy-saving all in one.

A pretty good of our resources, I’d say.