Krista Essen was working out on an elliptical machine Tuesday afternoon as she does two or three times a week at the Student Rec Center.
Essen, exercise and sports science freshman, said she did not think much about sustainable or alternative energy while working out, but that might change. Essen and other students using the elliptical machines at the Student Rec Center will help power the campus while they burn calories beginning next week.
Thirty elliptical machines will be retrofitted with equipment manufactured from a Clearwater, Fla. company called ReRev. The machines will convert kinetic energy into usable, renewable electricity that will be connected to the university’s grid and can be delegated anywhere on campus.
“It makes sense,” Essen said. “It’s a really smart idea and an efficient way to save energy.”
According to the company, a 30-minute work out on the machines produces enough current to power a laptop computer for about an hour.
Kristy Caldwell, associate director of the Student Recreation Center, said the project would turn the building into the largest human power plant in the world. It’s the only such project in Texas, she said.
“When I tell people about this they pretty much all say ‘Wow, that’s a cool idea,’” Caldwell said.
Retrofitting the machines will cost $19,750 and will be paid for by Texas State’s Environmental Service Committee along with the Department of Campus Recreation and Associated Student Government.
The project could take eight to 10 years to pay for itself, said Blaire Hartley, a recreation management graduate student who has been working on the project. Hartley said it’s not about money, but getting people involved with sustainable energy.
“We’re trying to change the mindset of people while they’re working out,” Hartley said. “If this is how much energy you created while working out on a machine, that’s only good to power your iPod for two hours... And that took you working out strenuously for 30 minutes. Maybe that will help people change the way they do things in their every day lives.”
Caldwell said the project is part of the university’s continuing sustainability efforts. These efforts include a recycling program, building bike and pedestrian lanes and cutting down on power consumption in dining halls.
Sustainable energy has become a buzz term that may not have a clear-cut definition. But the movement for sustainable, sometimes called green, energy is for moving away from finite fossil fuels such as oil to other forms of energy. Some popular proposals include solar, nuclear and biological, which can range from anywhere from corn to algae.