Capturing and reusing energy expended in gyms

Generate economic/environmental/health benefits from the energy expended in gyms

No_avatar_small Submitted by Simon Griffin
Shift Surrey Challenge - Turning ideas into action
How can we make Surrey an even better place to live?

This concept has the potential to benefit the environment, the individual, Surrey's communities, the local authority and the economy, and all by harnessing an existing renewable energy source. The majority of gym equipment works on the basis of resistance; gym-users expend chemical energy (thereby making them fitter/healthier/happier), which is currently lost as it dissipates into other forms of energy (e.g. heat). If you could introduce technology that enabled you to capture, store and reuse that energy, you would effectively convert the gym-using populous into one big dynamo. So why do this? What would the benefits be? Environment - even if the energy captured could not be added to the national grid, it could be used to supply power to the gym itself (e.g. lights, the machines), which would effectively lessen demand on the national grid. The individual - there is potential for offering contributors financial incentives; for every unit of energy captured, the individual could be compensated by way of credits against their own fuel bills. This fits well with the council's current focus on saving residents money on their energy bills, and also ties in with newly acquired public health responsibilities. What better way to motivate people to exercise? Communities - fitter, healthier individuals lead to happier communities, not only in terms of health, but by providing a reason for people to meet, socialise and participate in constructive group activities. The economy - the technology required would need to be developed and managed, potentially creating a localised industry. Furthermore, if people are able to save money on their energy bills, individuals' spending power could be increased, which could also benefit the local economy. Also, as a community's health improves, there would see reduced demand on services such as health, social care and police, enabling them to make better use of increasingly limited resources. I am unaware of any such systems/technology being used in the UK at the moment; my guess would be that the set-up costs of the technology would be problematic. Political will is also key, so providing incentive for decision-makers would be vital.

  • Ben Unsworth
    13 May at 12:13

    It's a great idea - it was piloted in a hotel in Copenhagen, where the energy you created could be traded for a free meal. Would be good to try and track down the results of the pilot.

  • Simon Griffin
    13 May at 17:08

    Cheers, Ben - I've read about bits of research conducted in the States as well (California), which seem to focus on reusing the energy in a highly localised fashion. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but I think the true value of this idea lies in the range of potential benefits. I'll have a nose around for the Copenhagen pilot results...

  • Cathy Brockington-Hill
    29 May at 08:23

    I think its a great idea. There's a company in London who exhibited this at Grand Designs exhibition. They're called the Great Outdoor Gym Company and there are piloting at a gym somewhere in UK. Look on TGO website or Grand Designs.

  • Simon Griffin
    19 Jun at 15:15

    Thanks for the tip, Cathy. I think the pilot you're talking about is the Green Heart in Hull:
    I've been in contact with the Great Outdoor Gym Co to see if they have any data on how much energy has been generated, and how much (if any) has been fed back into the National Grid. I'm still waiting for them to get back to me, but having that kind of information would be really helpful. The Green Heart in Hull is the first and only project of its kind for them.