ReRev ellipticals. (Image via Inhabitat)

ReRev ellipticals. (Image via Inhabitat)

At two Texas universities, students are powering their gyms with the dynamic movements of their own bodies. If you want to get poetic about it, they’re exercising their way to a brighter future.

The University of North Texas and Texas State University have outfitted their gyms with special elliptical machines that generate electricity while they’re being used. Developed by ReRev, the machines have transformed UNT’s Pohl Recreation Center “into one of the largest human power plants in the country.”

Generating Clean, Carbon-Free Electricity

According to ReRev, an average 30-minute workout on one of its ellipticals produces 50 watt hours of electricity, which is enough juice to power a laptop for about an hour. Even with 36 of the machines at UNT, it’s not a huge amount of electricity, but it is completely clean, carbon-free, and goes right back into the recreation center’s power grid.

In a press release, the university’s Senior Associate Director, Laurie Klein, said ReRev is one of an array of sustainability programs that has been supported by the students. “Students are huge proponents of renewable energy projects and the ReRev system gives them a chance to participate while getting a good workout,” said Klein. “Students are very aware of sustainability and the need to find alternate, clean power sources, which bodes well for our future because they will be the ones who will be leading those efforts in a very short time.”

Klein acknowledged that the machines won’t be enough to power a building, but their real value is educational: “both in showing how much work it takes to make electricity as well as the lesson in making buildings more sustainable.”

Glen Hanley, Texas State University’s director of campus recreation, said much the same thing after their 30 ReRev machines were installed back in 2009. “We knew we were not going to produce enough electricity for the whole building,” he told Energy Harvesting Journal, “but we wanted the students to be aware of what we’re doing and to do something right for the environment.”

TSU’s ellipticals power its gym’s lights, air conditioning and televisions, though the system has drawn criticism for the price of such a minimal output. At $20,000, Hanley said the university may break even on the investment in seven to eight years, though it could take as long as 15.

Yet as a highly visible means of educating students on the price of energy, it’s certainly effective. According to the Dallas News, students are more eager to use the ellipticals knowing that they’re contributing to the overall power of the facility.

People Power Is Spreading

There are at least 29 health centers in the United States that have now installed ReRev technology, but harvesting people power is a concept that is spreading across the planet. In Britain, The Great Outdoor Gym Company has developed its own Green Energy Gym Technology for its outdoor fitness parks.

The first such facility, Green Heart at Shaw Park, converts the kinetic energy used on its exercise equipment into electricity that keeps the park’s lights on after the sun goes down. Green Heart even has a “People Power Display Wall” that allows users and visitors to see how much power is being generated on its equipment.

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