Dixon generating energy from exercise
Dixon Rec. Center recently retrofitted 22 of its elliptical machines to generate power back into the grid when used
Published: Thursday, February 19, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 20:07
OSU is leading the way in technology that will simultaneously allow students to get in shape and help in the campus effort of going green.Dixon Recreational Center has retrofitted 22 elliptical machines to convert power produced from a person's workout and supply it back into the power grid to provide a portion of the gym's energy needs.
The machines are connected to an inverter box that is tied into the gym's grid system. The energy comes from the heat that is produced from the resistors on the equipment.
That heat was energy that was being wasted before, but is now able to be harnessed and used as a sustainable energy source thanks to this new technology.
OSU is only the second university in the country to use this technology and has the largest system of its kind so far. According to Glen Johansen, vice president of sales for ReRev.com, OSU is now the "largest human power plant in the world."
The machines have a very high efficiency rate, converting 97 percent of the energy produced by a person's workout and putting it back into the power grid.
Johansson explained that one machine over seven years is capable of producing one megawatt.
Since this is a pilot program and the technology is fairly new, it is not known exactly how much energy will be produced by the equipment at Dixon. It is estimated that around 3,500 kilowatt/hrs a year could be produced.
This would be enough to power a small, but very efficient house, according to Brandon Trelstad, OSU sustainability coordinator.
Students should not feel any difference in their workouts, but should be aware that the higher the resistance on the machine the more power is produced.
A demonstration of the equipment was given yesterday as part of a kickoff event for this technology. Three light bulbs were connected to an elliptical machine and people could run on them, producing enough energy to make them glow.
One of the people who tried out the equipment was Dixon fitness specialist Mike Kauffman. He was surprised at how easy it was.
"I thought it would be harder to light the bulb, but it's really not that bad."
Dixon has set up a monitor in the cardio room so that students can see how much energy they are producing. The monitor will say how much is being produced at that moment, how much has been produced so far that day and the year to date by wattage.
"You have a whole new relationship with a kilowatt/hour," said Jan Schaeffer, special projects manager for Energy Trust.
The monitor will allow students to feel more invested in making a difference through their workouts.
The technology, which is called ReCardio, was created by Hudson Harr, 22, while still a student at the University of Florida. Harr has since graduated with a degree in finance and is working with Sunquest, a producer of solar and thermal energy technologies, to help market his product.
The entire project cost around $16,000. ASOSU student incidental fees committee approved $10,000 in November 2008 to help fund the project.
"I'm really happy that the students were so enthusiastic about supporting this project," said Matt Pennington, ASOSU chief of staff.
The rest of the money was provided by Energy Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit organization that gives $100 million a year to homes and businesses to help convert to renewable energies. Schaeffer was glad to be given the opportunity to work with OSU on this project.
"There is an enthusiasm [at OSU] for finding new ways of making things work. The entire state is a leader and OSU is leading the state."
OSU currently receives 75 percent of its energy from renewable sources, but only a few thousand kilowatts of that is produced on site, according to Trelstad. Most of the energy comes from the student renewable energy incidental fee. This was an $8.50 fee students voted on in 2007 in order to purchase renewable energy for the campus.
"OSU has a commitment to being green, and Dixon has a commitment to being green," said Hayden Murphy, a manager for Dixon, and co-chair on the committee that decided to bring the technology to OSU. "This is one more step towards being green."
The benefits of this technology also reach out to students at an educational level.
"This type of involved, hands-on learning can be invaluable for students," Pennington said. "This project will put green power and new technology directly in contact with students that may have never seen it before. This type of project is one of those that students look at and it just makes sense."
Before the kickoff event a group of engineering students tried to see what they could learn from the new technology. They tested the equipment and read the inverter box in an attempt to find out how it worked. They were impressed with what they saw.
"This is awesome," said Kathy Han, a graduate student majoring in chemical engineering. "This is a really good start for using all of our resources to replace fossil fuels for sustainable energy in the future."
The initiative by OSU has already sparked interest at a national level.
Tom Kirch, OSU director of recreational sports, said he has already received around a dozen phone calls from universities across the nation interested in ReCardio.
He has also been in contact with some exercise equipment manufacturers who are looking to redesign their products to be compatible with the ReCardio technology.
Some representatives from institutions within the Oregon University System were present at the kickoff event in an effort to learn more about the technology. Some have already made up their minds to purchase the new equipment.
UO is in the process of raising the necessary funds to make the conversion, according to Dennis Munroe, UO director of recreational sports, but they are still curious about how the project is going to turn out for OSU.
"We have key folks here to learn from you," Munroe said.
Rebecca Johnson, senior reporter