Turkey Trot Power

From Bea Wray

As tens of thousands of South Carolinians prepare for their turkey trot, gobble wobble, or other Thanksgiving Day race I got to thinking that was tons of kinetic energy being created.

Kinetic energy is energy created by any body by virtue of it being in motion. This applies to both large and small items. The amount of kinetic energy an object has depends upon its size and speed. The heavier it is and the faster it is the more kinetic energy it has.

Bea and family created a lot of kinetic energy during last year’s Turkey Trot.

Tons of great startup companies have invented some pretty cool devices by thinking through the power of kinetic energy. For example, CoolChip technologies launched a convection cooling solution called a Kinetic Cooler. Underground Power in Italy is exploring kinetic energy in roadways. Similarly, Pavegen is generating power when people walk on their pavement tiles in nine countries at locations like Heathrow Airport and Kia motor factories. Active Power, now a division of Pillar Power Systems, is utilizing flywheel technology to provide permanent energy storage.

A common solution utilizing kinetic energy is the ability to recharge your phone from walking, running, or cycling. The nPower PEG (Personal Energy Generator) was reportedly conceived while Tremont Electric CEO Aaron Lemieux was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Speaking of backpacking, Lightning Packs were developed by Lawrence Rome for the US Military to convert movement into electricity with a pack that slides up and down its frame. The US Military also motivated Albert Hartman to design the RollerGen battery which sits on the back wheel of a bicycle.

It is fascinating to see the possibilities and how far researchers have come. Of course there is still a long way to go before such products are widely used. Some of them like the lightning pack and RollerGen have initial costs of $300 to $500 which is a pretty penny if buyers conceive them as just gadgets. The fact that many of us don’t actually think about the current political, economic, and financial costs of electricity means we will have a hard time justifying the return on investment for some of the technology described above. The buying decisions on the personal products is more likely to be around unlimited access to power even when far away from an outlet.

Personally, I get most excited thinking about the ability to harness pedestrian activity to power communities. As I think about turkey trots this week, I wish I could see a meter of energy created as thousands of runners cross the finish line!