The gym might seem like an unlikely place to find climate solutions, but a range of fitness equipment aims to help – literally one step at a time.
Maynooth University students can now use a treadmill that generates electricity as they run, making them literally human dynamos.
A steady pace generates enough power to run the machine, but picks up speed and you can generate excess to power other devices.
“It’s a really simple idea,” said Susan McEntegart of Expert Leisure, which brought the Eco-Powr units to Ireland. “But often the simplest ideas are the last ones on people’s minds.”
The first Eco Powr treadmill to be installed in Ireland is in the library at Co Kildare College, apt home of ICARUS, the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units.
There, students can take a break from their books, break the deadlock, and at the same time generate renewable energy for the building.
“By a very conservative count, there are 830 gyms in the country. This is based on commercial rate classification only, so hotels, ATM clubs, workplaces and homes with fitness equipment are not included,” said Ms. McEntegart.
“If the 830 swapped two treadmills for Eco Powr units and used them six hours a day, 350 days a year, 1,000 tons of carbon could be saved.”
The machine has an attraction function for competitive fitness enthusiasts. “You can see the wattage you’re generating when you run, and people love that.”
The Eco Powr range, which includes steppers, exercise bikes and cross trainers that work on the same principle, was recently unveiled at the Energy Show at the RDS, which showcased over 100 companies involved in energy innovation.
Daniel Farrell had a stand that seemed to promise the impossible – carbon neutral solid fuels.
Its WillowWarm briquettes are made from locally grown willow, dried, pressed and packed in Co Meath.
“The willow is grown specifically as an energy crop – it grows for two years, you harvest and replant – so it’s fast and renewable. It also provides the fuel to run the factory,” said Mr. Farrell.
With peat briquettes being phased out and restrictions on smoky fuels tightening, and with farmers looking to diversify, Mr Farrell was confident of finding many suppliers and buyers.
Limerick brothers Justin and Conor McCormack also observed trends, in their case the growing number of planning applications for large solar farms.
They are Irish representatives from SolarClean Robotics who assemble and deploy robots that are remotely programmed to drive over solar panels, cleaning them and inspecting for damage as they drive.
With solar farms of 300 acres and more on the way, the brothers predict a big market. “You only need to clean twice a year, or three or four times in places where there’s a lot of dirt, but it has to be done right,” Justin said. “The robots are very precise and only use as much water as necessary, so there is no waste.
“We add thermographic imaging so any damage can be detected and located using GPS.
“The slightest damage to one panel can affect the performance of the others, so it’s important to fix it quickly.”
Staying ahead of a trend is even more important for Clarke Energy, which builds on-site power plants for industry.
Its main products were gas-fired power generators. Now they’re building hydrogen-ready generators, and power-hungry data centers — a lightning rod for energy-wasting criticism — are a prime target.
“If you’re currently using natural gas, you can take up to 20 percent mixed hydrogen, but these units will now take natural gas and 100 percent hydrogen when it’s available,” said Toni Pedder of Clarke Energy. “We only need the hydrogen, but it will come. Much emphasis is placed on the development of inventories. The data center industry believes it will come because they are now looking for these units.”
Clarke Energy has an order for 20 from a data center operator in Ireland alone.
“I can’t say who for reasons of confidentiality for our customers, but I’d love to shout it from the rooftops because it’s really positive,” Mr Pedder said.
For the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), which hosts the Energy Show, the annual event is a welcome reminder that there is no shortage of innovation to tackle the climate crisis.
SEAI’s Declan Meally says Irish companies are well placed to bring new ideas and services to market.
“There are some fantastic opportunities for Irish companies. Because we’re a smaller country, it’s much easier for you to fit in here,” he said. “You can network researchers, companies, municipalities, government agencies and try out new ideas.”
The ideas that will be explored together range from large-scale hydrogen production and storage to pop-up roadside chargers for electric vehicles.
“A big focus is on getting more out of what we already have because that makes an immediate difference,” he added. “For example, we helped Diageo so that a pint of Guinness brewed now uses half the energy it did 10 years ago. Every day we see innovations and ideas. We don’t have a magic bullet against the climate crisis, but what we’re seeing are lots of little golden nuggets in innovation, and that gives us hope and optimism.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/gym-machines-that-generate-power-among-the-golden-nuggets-of-new-eco-innovation-41575944.html Fitness equipment that generates electricity is among the “golden nuggets of the new eco-innovation”