Generating energy; what other sustainable options are there besides solar and wind energy?

When we think about generating energy in a sustainable way –thus no use of fossil fuels- most people think about solar panels and large (ugly) windmills. Of course not without a reason, because both options have already been proven to be very efficient and have become cheaper and better every year. But to generate energy there are so many other nice possibilities that each have their own set of extra benefits. It would be a shame to neglect these options.

What about all the people that work there asses off in the local gym? Why is the power generated by all their hard work not being used to burn our lights yet? About 20 % of the population in the Netherlands over 15 years has a gym membership.That’s about 3.2 million people if they all run say, one hour per week on a treadmill. That would already be 3.2 million*52 hours= 166.4 million hours on a treadmill. One hour on a treadmill gains you about 400 watts. So that’s 166.4 million *400 watt. That can be used. The bonus here of course is that people also get healthier!

Honey, I’d like to charge my phone tonight, could you please go on the treadmill this time?

Another idea could be to take an advantage out of our ageing problem. We have more and more elderly people with failing body’s like for example incontinence. In Japan diapers of elderly people are being used to recycle the paper and plastic from the diaper, but they have found a system which can separate the faeces in the diaper and use the methane to heat the roads or to heat greenhouses.

Japans system of diaper energy

Or what about energy generating speed bumps? We have tons off them in the Netherlands so why not implement an energy generating system out of those annoying car wreckers.  In England they have already started installing ‘’electro-kinetic road ramps’’ as they are romantically called. The bump contains some kind of a metal plate. Whenever a car drives over the bump an internal generator will be powered. Of course it depends on the weight of the car and the passenger (do they generate energy as well in the gym or not?) how much kilo watt the bump generates, but it can go up to 50 KwH per vehicle! All this energy could be used by traffic lights for examples of LED road signs

As my last example of multi-beneficial sustainable energy generating I would like to give some attention to a quite simple implementation that Sweden did. They use confiscated alcohol, which would normally be poured down the drain, as a way of generating energy. How amazing is that! In the Netherlands we have a lot of festivals every year, where people bring their own booze. And although I am sure that many people actually can smuggle their alcohol into the venue, there are also enough that get caught. In Sweden the alcohol they confiscate (700.000 litres last year) is converted to biogas and will subsequently be used for trucks, buses and trains.

And there are so many other bizarre ways of generating energy that could be used. In a sense everything that moves, contains energy. In my opinion it would be a waste to not use all these options that are already there anyway. We just need to make some slight adaptions. And most importantly we need to keep thinking out of that box!


4 thoughts on “Generating energy; what other sustainable options are there besides solar and wind energy?”

  1. I really like the originality of the different idea’s for energy generation in this post. We hear so much about solar and wind energy these days that a lot of people tend to forget that we have a lot of other options to generate energy. I do think that solar and wind energy are te solution for sustainable energy on a global scale, but smaller initiatives like the ones mentioned in this blog could be a great addition. This is mainly because sunlight and wind is of course not always available so energy from alcohol, treadmills or even diapers can be added to the grid to fill in the gaps of solar and wind energy.

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  2. I agree that this could be solutions on a local scale but I doubt that these forms of energy generation can be efficient enough to make a large contribution. It is, however, a great notion to not waste the energy potential at hand. I am wondering though, if people would accept energy coming from diapers? Also, a (I assume fairly complex) recycling system would have to be designed for them as well as a plant producing pellets/energy from that. If this was done baby diapers could be included as well. Plus, there needs to be more detailed analysis done on how much energy is actually needed for the recycling process and to power that pellet creating plant.

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  3. Wow, such great, refreshing ideas! In this case the ‘local’ energy production might only seem like a minor contribution to energy production, in this minor we also learned that you have to: ‘think globally, act locally’. Especially for cities which don’t have a lot of space available for generating renewable energy within their city boundaries, local generation like the gym-energy will help a lot. The blog of @56sanne also gives an example of a new possible energy source which could really help. Furthermore, I think that new, out-of-the-box ideas can help to prevent a lock-in of the system. But that is also the positive thing about renewable energy: you can get is from various sources. We also need all those different sources, concerning the amount of energy we currently use. So next to for example solar, wind and hydropower as fundamental sources, ‘new’ renewable energy ideas, which make use of our daily life, could really help to supply our energy demand.

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  4. Wauw Roos, these ideas sound really great. Though, as you already mentioned, renewable resources like wind and solar will always be the cheapest and most efficient to connect to the grid. I wonder what you feel like is the best idea for a city like Leiden, keeping the city’s characteristics in the back of your head?


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