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small scale implementations for demonstration and conversation building...ex: The Power Plant Gym

What if there was an accessory benefit to going to the gym? What if a gym, could not only work as a place for you to become healthier, but it also made the environment healthier? The Power Plant...Gym is a concept that uses the kinetic energy often produced by people working out and turns it into electric energy. This power could then be used to run the facility. Excess energy could be exported to the grid, used locally on a microgrid, or maybe used to clean water or air in the near vicinity. More importantly, the gym would function as a way to get people talking about renewable energy and the environment. People already doing this...

Photo of Will Rice
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A few people are already doing this.  I think the real kicker would be an innovative system for incentivizing people to go work out.  Here it cost to join, no cost to workout.  If you DON'T generate your share of the kWh every month, you get charged.  If you try and cancel, you get charged.  I call it the "Pay NOT to play" model.  

What community does this idea benefit and who are the main players?

This could benefit any community anywhere, whether this becomes the central generator of power for an area without power or whether it becomes just a performance art piece for a place with power.

How does your idea specifically help your community rapidly transition to renewables?

It would help the community of workout enthusiasts reach outward while still working inward (i.e. getting healthy).

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I could try and do a senior/ junior design project with local universities to have students create concepts and mockups.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

model prototyping of feasible, group-based exercise equipment, would help people to better conceptualize what possible benefits exist.

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post:

  • A combination of various types of renewable energy

This idea emerged from:

  • An Individual

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Here is my middle school level mock up of one of the pieces of workout equipment. you select your stick, insert it into a middle column, and then essentially walk in circles.


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Photo of Jaime Gusching

Hey Will!

I've often thought that my energy spent at the gym could be harnessed better--at least power the treadmill or keep the t.v. running.

To add features to your green gym, here's a couple of dream big ideas:

Plants hanging upside down from the ceiling in your gym to help capture the exhaled C02

A green house for hot yoga classes.

Showers where the runoff is filtered and recycled to water the plants.

You could even create work out routines that get some actual work done---like lifting and moving bags of mulch for the garden, going for "trash runs" to jog and pick up litter in the neighborhood.

Your gym could have a cafe that takes the fruits and vegetables from the garden and makes post-workout smoothies and teaches patrons about nutrition.

Basically, Will, I applaud your concept and I see a million ways to infuse an exercise facility with environmental love.

Photo of Natalie Lake

Hi Jamie and Will,

I really liked both of your ideas and wanted to add a few more ways to make your gym even more sustainable. The smoothie's fruits and vegetable scraps could be repurposed into compost to compliment the shower water. To not add too much labor to the gym's staff the compost could be maintained fairly easily with California red worms.

Also Will, if you want to check out the gravity light (I'm including a link below) I think you could incorporate similar technologies so that weight training (on machines) could also create energy for the gym and help with your "pay not to play" model. I feel like you could also try to figure out some link between swimming and creating hydraulic energy. (e.g if you were doing a kicking set, you could probably create enough energy to power a small radio)

Very cool idea!

Photo of Will Rice

I like that gravity light concept. I had seen that before. I'm thinking we could do something with a much larger weight and maybe some stairs and multiple chambers. so, you pick up a large weight, run up the stairs, put it on the tray, and maybe even you then get on the next tray and ride down.

Photo of Melissa Everett

I just delved into this and found that one of your two links is obsolete - last posts 2010 - shows there are pitfalls in this vision BUT the other link is live and Adam at seems to have a well-conceived business model and a real desire to share his best practices transparently. He has apparently created the model in Portland Oregon and also sells equipment for schools, and offers a model for building local operations in a financially coherent way with crowdfunding. His list of business tips includes "Be honest" - that signals a winning trustworthy person worth watching. In the Hudson Valley of New York and in Connecticut, my two stomping grounds, I am eager to beta test these recommendations. At HealthTrax, the gym where I work out, I have been blue-skying this with one of the counter staff people.... I chair the local Clean Energy Task Force in Enfield CT and we are gobbling up these kinds of ideas. I also manage a program of technical assistance for Clean Energy Task Forces around Connecticut, and over in NY I direct Sustainable Hudson Valley which just received a funding award for a solar outreach program. So we have a good set of networks for sharing this idea and tracking results. Testing/ evaluation, problem-solving and learning what works seem to me the core of operationalizing this idea (or any of them in this Open Ideo)..... I'll watch comments and look forward to others interested in beta testing this idea.

Photo of Will Rice

Thanks Melissa. I am going to get in touch with Adam and see if I can lease a recumbent and maybe do some kind of demonstration installation at our local airport as a charging station. It would be a good test case.

Photo of Melissa Everett

Great idea. I'll try something similar (and hope not to hit major snags getting the equipment to the east coast - hey maybe he needs a distribution center on this coast)...