Human-powered generators are mini-power stations that allow you to convert your human effort and energy into electricity or mechanical energy. These devices have actually been around for thousands of years, and in the early 1900s, they were used during WWI to provide power for field radio equipment. These stations are usually in the form of pedal bikes (on training stands) and/or hand cranks. They can be used to directly power many mechanical and electronic devices, or charge batteries so that the energy can be stored for later use.
There are many types of human-powered generators, but one of the most popular is the pedal generators. They are usually rigged to a stand that replaces the resistance unit (the part on a stationary bike that makes you feel like you are riding on the road), with a plate where a generator is mounted. While pedaling, the bike wheel spins a roller which turns a series of magnets in the motor, which creates an electromagnetic charge. The generator produces direct current (DC), which is the type of electricity that gets stored in batteries. An average person can generate approximately 50 watts of energy with one hour of pedaling. An above average fit person can generate an average of 70 watts in an hour, and 160 watts in short bursts. Comparatively, a Tour de France rider can sustain approximately 400 watts with peaks of up to 1 kilowatt.
Benefits of a Human-Powered Generator
- Produces clean energy
- Reduces CO2 emissions
- Upcycling source materials
- Provides cleaner air
- Exercise opportunities while generating clean energy
- Converts chemical energy (calories) to mechanical work
- Provides access to energy during crisis situations (windup radios, flashlights, etc.)
- Cottage industry job creation
- Savings on electricity