As awareness about the impending threat of global warming continues to spread, inventors and innovators throughout the world are looking for new ways to meet the demand for energy while decreasing its toll on the environment. Many different solutions are being put on the table. Some forms of energy are clean, green and renewable, like wind and solar power. Other forms of energy, like nuclear and biofuels, offer several challenges. Interesting enough, we have no idea what the future of energy will look like. There are many educated guesses, but no one will be able to predict just where the future of energy will land for some time.
One idea currently in consideration is human-powered energy. Though a wonderful option, it does have its limitations; no one expects human-powered energy to fuel the entire American electricity grid. However, on a smaller scale, human powered energy might be the right solution for you. Basically, the idea is that you create your own energy. This concept is not new. Push mowers cut grass with energy that the pusher (you) creates. It can be seen in other forms as well, like when you ride your bike to work instead of drive. It's a do-it-yourself way of giving power to your household machines.
Taking the concept one step further, human-powered energy can be created using a modified exercise bike. Human energy (the act of you using your legs to make the pedals move) is converted into an electrical current by a fan belt that is connected to the exercise bike. This energy can then be stored in batteries and can supplement other energy sources, like wind or solar panel systems. This direct current (DC) energy can be converted into alternating current (AC) energy, which can be used by standard 110-volt appliances. By riding an exercise bike for a short amount of time, you could power your radio, some televisions, lights, power tools and other appliances that don't require astronomical amounts of energy (like your refrigerator).
The idea behind human-powered energy can also be a useful teaching tool. For example, one outreach program, The Leonardo on Wheels in Salt Lake City, Utah, allows public school students to test out their ability to power light bulbs. Students sit on a human-powered exercise bike and try to power light bulbs. Most of the students can easily power the compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, and practically all of the students can power the light emitting diode (LED) bulbs. However, once the incandescent bulb is turned on, students usually fail to power it for more than a few seconds. This kind of tool is useful to help people to understand how much energy we really use.
In the end, human-powered energy isn't going to fix the America's consumption of fossil fuels. However, if you live off-grid, it might be an excellent way to supplement your other energy sources. It can be a great way to inspire you to exercise. After all, if you can't turn your coffee maker on until you've gotten on the bike for half an hour, EnviroCitizen.org believes you may find yourself with more motivation to get active than you ever have before!