As the political and ecological aspects of energy rise in people's consciousness, the search for new and clean ways to generate energy is gaining momentum. A fitness center in Hong Kong has joined the movement with a new idea: the energy generated by the members as they exercise is transformed into electricity to help light the facility. Claudia Blume has more.
The serious exerciser's motto used to be, no pain, no gain. At Hong Kong's California Fitness centers, the new catch phrase might be, no sweat, no light. When club members use certain exercise machines, the energy they generate is turned into stored electricity. To make the fluorescent tubes in the studio's ceiling light up, they have to start pumping.
The consoles of the exercise machines themselves were already powered by human energy. But about 90 percent of the energy produced during workouts was dissipated as heat.
Lucien Gambarota, a Hong Kong-based renewable energy entrepreneur and the inventor of the idea, says an average person can produce 50 watts of electricity per hour. He explains how the energy created by the exercisers is transformed into electricity.
"Each of these machines, they are equipped with a generator inside. So what we did, we diverted part of the electricity produced by the machine to recharge a battery, he said. "And with what we store in the battery, we have been able to power part of the lighting system."
Gym users are enthusiastic about the new project, which started at the end of February.
"I think it's a really good idea. At least the energy is used for something good. It gives you more reason - you are not wasting what you are using, so it's better that way," said a club member.
So far, only 13 of the club's exercise machines are hooked up to a battery. Because of the encouraging results in the start-up phase, however, the center is planning to expand the idea throughout the gym.
Steve Clinefelter, president of the Asia-wide California Fitness chain, says his company will even consider expanding the human power project further.
"If that proves successful and economically viable, then we see nothing that would stop us from continuing to grow to more and more of our clubs, and ultimately to the entire industry, and all clubs worldwide would consider and choose this kind of an alternative power source," he said.
Clinefelter's other vision for the future: he says he plans to hook up the club's television sets to the human-generation system. If you want to watch TV while working on the stationary bike or the Stairmaster - you are just going to have to pump harder.