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Published on December 6th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor


What’s The Value In An Energy-Producing Gym?

December 6th, 2013 by  

Originally published on Climate Progress
by Emily Atkin


Image Credit: Shutterstock

There is a gym in England where crazy workouts do more than just power muscles. They also power the building.

The 42 crosstrainers, bikes, and treadmills at the Cadbury House Club in Congresbury can convert human energy generated during a workout to electricity which eventually powers the machine, Green Futures Magazine reports. The surplus energy that is not used to power the machine is channeled into the gym’s own power supply via “brushless motor” technology, which reportedly reduces energy consumption by 30 percent.

The club installed the ARTIS Technogym machines — at a cumulative cost of £600,000, or $981,120 — in order to combat rising energy costs. Jason Eaton, the general manager of the gym, said in a statement that the technology is “reducing the level of energy needed to power the club, which is great for the environment.”

The question has been raised as to whether the innovative idea will bring meaningful energy efficiency benefits. Dr. Tzern Toh, an electrical engineering researcher at Imperial College in London, told Green Futures that the high cost of installing the equipment may outweigh the benefits. “The price of electricity is many times less than the cost of the equipment and it may take months or years of electricity savings to recoup the investment,” he said.

But “months or years” to recoup on spending does not seem like such a long time compared to the alternative, which is to wait while energy costs soarRecent European research has shown that energy prices there are rising at up to eight times the rate of earnings, with the area’s six biggest suppliers having increased their prices by 37 percent since October 2010. During that same period, average household earnings only rose 4 percent.

According to Business Green, each of the ARTIS machines is capable of generating 100 watts of electricity, meaning each could power an 18-inch standing fan at the highest setting, a desktop computer, a large stereo system, or two laptop computers. However, the energy that is not being used by the machines themselves is not currently metered, so it is too soon to tell just how much energy is being saved by the company. Green Futures reports that the gym does plan to eventually install tracking software that would read energy input and output levels.

Though Cadbury House Club’s machines are based in Europe, similar innovations are happening in the United States as well. In January, Earth Techling reported on a company called SportsArt Fitness, a company that makes workout machines that are designed to pipe human-generated power to the grid. The “Green Room” gym at Tennessee Tech University currently uses the gear, which can reportedly convert 75 percent of the power generated into usable energy. A system of 10 machines could, depending on how hard people are working out, produce up to 2 kilowatt-hours of electricity in an hour, SportsArt said.

“Some people wonder whether these systems will pay off financially for a gym, given the investment it takes to install them,” Earth Techling’s report said. “But whether they do or not might be missing the point: Each kilowatt-hour generated means one less kilowatt coming from a power plant (likely to be powered by fossil-fuels).” 

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