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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.  Pay not to play.  


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Photo of Michael Kasian

I'm really into this idea, Will. I posted my own support for this myself. Would love to team up and hear anything you've learned since posting this.

Photo of Meena Kadri

We know it's a crazy time of year – but our team thought you're onto something here which could translate well into a new concept for our Ideas phase. You've got till Jan 15 to summons the creative energy to post an idea. Here's some tips: and we hope you'll find some time to get your innovation game on!

Photo of Aparna Ashok

Hi Will, this is such a fantastic, intuitive solution! I love the upcycle eco-charger idea, it is applicable in so many ways in India. These chargers could be given to urban bikers to promote it. It could be distributed in rural villages, where they send their mobiles to the city via truck drivers to get it charged. If this is set up in a rural school, it could easily power the school's/community centre's electricity.

Photo of Will Rice


Photo of Anja Kantowsky

Sharing sth. loosely connected to this idea - connect cycling to literally run a machine:
I saw it in a blog - might be on - but cannot find it any more.

Photo of Will Rice

i think that might have been a bill and melinda gates project. thanks!

Photo of Nazlican Göksu

Hi Will! This is an idea that we were always asking ourselves why people don't do it. I heard there are some US rules about not being able to create your own energy and using it. Did you hear anything about that?

Photo of Will Rice

It depends where. Energy regulations are regional in the US. Some places allow you to sell power back to the grid, some places allow to you use it and sell back the excess. In the end, with modern workout equipment and single people, the economics don't pan out. If you take into account advanced in group-based equipment, the benefits of the PR, and ability to start and sustain conversations about energy while also getting people more familiar with the units (what is a kWh), the value proposition gets more realistic.

Photo of Jes Simson

Hey Will, I love how you are framing this solution as a way to build conversations around renewable energy.

Photo of Will Rice

Thanks Jes. I think much of the problem is people don't understand the technical aspects of the problem. We can't just put a few square feet of solar on a house and expect to replace MW-, GW-, and TW-scale centralized generation. And yet, that is what all the environmental groups think. And we dismiss the ease of switching tech, changing behaviors, and the awareness of externalizes.

Photo of Alper Yaglioglu

I agree with Jes. Gyms are one of the places people actively engage with each other and chatting about renewable energy is a great ice breaker! I think technical problems are not a big deal, the main idea here is to connect people around renewable energy so that they can inform and influence each other. Love the concept! If not a gym, then a dance club or something else. Let's see how this idea will grow in Ideas phase. Great share!

Photo of Carles Guerrero Santiago

The idea is great but I share this cost-of-installation barrier will make it complicated in the short run. However, there are easier beta versions of the concepts.
For instance, why not redirecting the air flow coming from the spinning cycles towards a certain area or point to improve ventilation in the spinning room?
Or why not directing those flows towards the inmediately behind bikes so that the spinner cools a little with extra air on his/her face?

Mills and electricity generation could come later.

Photo of Will Rice

i think the real innovation will come with new types of equipment. so...not just exericise bikes, but think things like group treadmill hills. a team of people would be working out together to make more power with larger motors. but yes...cost is an issue. value of power is an issue too. it is working in small places where power is the northwest.

Photo of Carles Guerrero Santiago

The group concept you mention sounds interesting, however the costs are huge and need someone to invest on them. That's why I was proposing minor adaptations to existing technologies, which are way cheaper and easy to put into the market although not that disruptive.

Photo of Will Rice

I think it would have to more than incremental to work. Otherwise its not stunning enough. But yes...would require tremendous investment.

Photo of jamie dean

Love the idea and the incentives for individuals to go to the gym! Any thoughts on incentives for gyms themselves? I'm wondering why they aren't currently using such equipment given that it should lower their costs.At a gym I was at recently, there was a "hybrid" tag on the elliptical and I'm not sure if it's similar to what you're thinking (but I can't seem to find online).

Photo of Rupinder Dhillon

Cost is the main reason more gyms aren't employing this idea, though the installation could pay for itself over time. The most costly part of the installation is feeding electricity back into the grid, or into the gym itself. Maybe a government subsidy/grant/tax break could incentivize gym owners to install this type of equipment?

An article on ThinkProgress states that a company called SportsArt Fitness, which makes this type of equipment, claims: "A system of 10 machines could, depending on how hard people are working out, produce up to 2 kilowatt-hours of electricity in an hour." I think that's enough for 10 average-sized TVs.

Photo of Will Rice

hmmmm...200 watt TVs? I think they use a bit more than that. but yes...cost and value of power is the biggest hurdle.