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UNT Insider | September 2010 Issue | Sustainability exercise: UNT students helping power recreation center

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Sustainability exercise: UNT students helping power recreation center

From a UNT News Service press release

UNT is converting the Pohl Recreation Center into one of the largest human power plants in the country by capturing the kinetic energy produced by exercise machines and converting it into electricity.

The 36 elliptical machines that are included in the project are fitted with a device from ReRev, a Florida company that developed the system, which feeds electricity produced by each machine into the recreation center's power grid.  ReRev says during a typical 30-minute workout, each machine produces 50 watt hours of clean, carbon-free electricity, enough to power a compact fluorescent light bulb for 2.5 hours or a laptop computer for an hour.

"UNT has a vast array of sustainability programs under way on campus and this project underscores our commitment to saving energy," says Laura Klein, senior associate director of recreational sports. "It's a great educational opportunity for our students, faculty and staff. This system provides a lesson in sustainability and energy use. As they work out, they'll be thinking of the energy they're producing and perhaps it will influence them to consider sustainability in their daily lives."

A monitor will be set up near the ellipticals that will indicate the amount of electricity being produced, giving users a clear picture of how much energy is being saved.

"Students are huge proponents of renewable energy projects and the ReRev system gives them a chance to participate while getting a good workout," Klein says. "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."

ReRev captures and diverts the kinetic energy produced by exercise and given off as heat. Instead, ReRev's system converts it into an alternating current that's used in the recreation center's power grid. Next, that converted electricity is fed directly into the building's electrical supply, lowering the buildings overall use by a small amount. Because each of the elliptical machines normally dissipates heat into the room, the system also means slightly lower air conditioning costs.

"We're not going to power the building from these machines, but we are generating clean electricity and helping educate students. The real value of the system is both in showing how much work it takes to make electricity as well as the lesson in making buildings more sustainable," Klein says.

Approximately 20 universities in the U.S. are using the ReRev system.

Buddy Price with UNT News Service can be reached at buddy.price@unt.edu.

Read other stories in this issue:

September 2010

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