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'Eco-gym' is harnessing human spin power

Generating energy while exercising
Posted: 5:17 PM, Jun 18, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-19 08:17:17-04

Imagine your electric bill was $0. Every single month.

But entrepreneur Jose Aviña doesn’t have to imagine because he came up with an idea for a gym powered through a combination of solar panels on the roof and human energy put out via spin classes.

“I was trying to combine my two passions: one, my love for environment, and two, fitness,” Aviña said. “So it just seemed like a no-brainer to me to combine them both.”

Depending on the number of people in a class, and the difficulty level of the ride, a typical group spin session can output anywhere from 1000 to 2000 watts of power. That's enough to power an energy-efficient refrigerator an entire day, he said.

“What we are able to produce here [with the bikes] is enough energy for us to use to power some of the lights, our speakers, and then the rest of the energy is being drawn from solar panels,” said Aviña.

Morgan Stonefelt teaches a 6 a.m. class.

“There’s not a lot of gyms that power energy pack onto the grid,” Stonefelt said. “Your energy that you’re spending, the sweat, is actually going toward something.”

But this isn’t the end goal for Aviña. In fact, he often refers to this as just the “beta phase.” He wants to find a solution to something much bigger.

“Can we harness human power at a larger rate so we can actually power an entire city block,” he said. “Membership [dues] are going into our research funds so we can find new ways to harness more energy.”

“Movement is energy,” he said. “So we can harness every moment of every human being’s life. Even the moment they’re laying in bed because weight is energy still, being applied.”

And he's taking his ideas beyond the spin class. He says he's just embarked on a new partnership with local University of California researchers to try to create a device that could be embedded into floors to harness the energy weightlifters create when dropping weights.