The price of crude oil, hovering at around $70 a barrel, continues to put pressure on domestic energy bills. As consumers feel the heat, more and more companies are looking to renewable energy as the way forward. Nuclear, hydro, solar and wind energy have been the traditional favorites. However, on the back of continued advances in technology and against the backdrop of ever more challenging oil exploration, a variety of alternatives are being placed on the table.
Gizmag recently covered advances in the use of humans as a source of energy:
"A new thermoelectric system created by researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute is at the forefront of these developments - running on a miniscule 200 millivolts the device is able to create an electrical charge from body heat and could lend itself to an endless array of applications that go way beyond powering your own mobile phone."
And if this isn't enough, human-based piezoelectricity may go one step further:
"Piezoelectricity is the charge generated by certain materials when placed under stress, for example the energy generated by footsteps. Japanese train stations are collecting the piezoelectric energy of commuters walking through the gates, and MIT is working on a “crowd farm” which would use a special floor to harness the energy created by the circulation of a large amount of people."
So will either of these promising energy sources see the light of day in the business setting? Sneaky Business convened a meeting of our technology advisory board to consider the possibilities. After much eco-friendly debate, we concluded that the following scenarios have the most promise:
- Meetings powered by nervous energy: Piezoelectric floor mats placed below a conference table and smaller devices placed inside swivel chairs capture toe-tapping and seat rocking. The energy generated from a typical six-person one hour meeting should be sufficient to power room lighting and a conference projector.
- Office "electric chair": Thermoelectric generators embedded in seat, back and arm-rests power six tilt and swivel motors. Particularly warm bodied individuals may generate sufficient energy for occasional cross floor motion (e.g. to and from the waste basket)
- Cube-based human generators: Thermoelectric "cube shoes" connect directly to in-building power grid. Rough calculations (completed near the end of a particularly grueling, and highly alcoholic advisory board session) suggest that five hundred users wearing the devices for six hours per day could power sixteen office printers, twenty five fax machines and one Macho Pop, Back Counter Popcorn Machine.
- Piezoelectric office gym: All aerobic exercise machines fitted with piezoelectric devices. Energy generated sufficient to power in room air conditioning and ambient music audio system.
- Carbon neutral PCs: Thermoelectric hand-rests and piezoelectric keyboard / mouse ensure that battery / AC requirements should be reduced by at least 50%. Optional "stress reducing" crank handle would allow users to juice up the battery during idle time in the office.