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Can someone start this idea for an electric company? Electricity would be free. Answered

My brother came up with this idea. An electric company that is powered by people working out on bikes and other stuff. I don't know if it's possible but think of the possibilities. People would supply their own electricity by working out and getting fit. 

All the people working out would be volunteers and maybe they could get paid based on how much energy they produce. That would give people motivation to exercise. Instead of paying for a gym membership they would get paid to get fit and they would be helping the community. 

For the community electricity might be free if not a whole lot cheaper. I don't know a lot about electricity but if this idea is possible someone should start it because it would do a lot of good in a lot of communities.


I'm not sure I'd want to live in a world where electrical energy was so expensive, or human labor so cheap.

You know, just a back-of-an-envelope calculation, with typical human-power output at around 0.2 kilowatt*hours per hour, and the street price of mains electricity being something like 0.1 USD per kilowatt hour, that means an hour of pedaling gives about 0.2*0.1 = 0.02 USD, literally a few pennies, worth of electricity.

Actually it is quite humbling, when you realize just how cheap energy is today, compared to the bad, old days, when everything was powered by human, or animal, muscle.

Wow! I can't believe I got best answer for like, crushing your dream like that with a single equation. Erm.., or maybe it was your brother's dream?

Either way, I kind of feel bad about it, and I think this answer deserves some elaboration.

I think the math is basically correct. The quote of 0.2 kW*h of energy per hour, which is 200 watts average power, comes from this Wikipedia page:


specifically the line that says,

"200 W – tech: stationary bicycle average power output [7][8]"

where [7] and [8] are the sources where Wikipedia got that number from.

Also regarding the cost of mains electricity, the price of 0.10 USD per kW*h, was just sort of a wild-ass guess. But it's not too far off. Today, I found this:


and the table labeled "Retail Service by Customer Sector" gives the number 12.09 cents per kW*h, for residential users. Interestingly, the industrial users are getting a much better price: 6.59 cents per kW*h. It must be one of those buying-it-in-bulk kind of deals.

So that's where the numbers come from, but, and this is the the "but" the part where I try to resuscitate your beautiful dream a little bit... But the price of residential mains electricity does not tell the whole story of the electricity economy.

For example, for those users not connected to the power grid, the price of electricity is much higher. Basically those people have to generate their own electricity, by way of gas-powered generators, or photovoltaic (solar) panels, or something, and the cost is much higher. For the most part it is still cheaper to buy a generator and fuel for it, or to buy a PV panel plus storage battery plus charge controller, than it is to hire someone to run on a treadmill, or stationary bicycle to produce the same amount of power, but again that changes somewhat if there is some health, or spiritual, benefit to be gained from making the electricity with human muscle power.

Also my previous answer said nothing about the external costs


of producing electricity the cheap way. Modern power plants produce abundant, cheap electricity, but they also produce modern forms of pollution, including the obvious stuff like nuclear waste, and also the less obvious impacts, like what television and indoor lighting are doing to everyone's mental health and natural sleep cycle. Costs like these are NOT included in the price you pay per kilowatt*hour.

Don't feel too bad. It's not my dream or my brothers. We both thought it was just a cool idea. Thanks for the thorough explanation.

I have seen desks where students are constantly pedaling at a slow speed while they study. It's been shown to improve there concentration among other things. This is a project started by my aunt at Clemson. Such a bike could be connected to a small generator which would allow students to produce enough power to keep there device charged as they work. May not be enough for a laptop but it's something. That's the problem with human powered generators. They don't produce a lot of power.

Even if such an idea could produce a substantial amount of power it wouldn't be free. The cost of equipment has to come from somewhere. Not to mention the cost of maintenance. This is one of the problems with solar power. The initial cost of the system is quite large. Not to mention the amount of space such a system needs to be effective. From time to time the panels will need to be cleaned, batteries replaced and upkeep on everything else. Even than the panels will only produce power for about 25 years tops.

I have been quoted around £6K for 4 K watts of solar on my roof. Because the UK government provide a feed back tariff to promote self generation of 15p ish per K wh I should make a profit of around £150 cash a year , get free hot water every day and reduce my overall energy bills (gas and electricity) by 50%

Seems like a no brainer at that price. - Pnls need cleaning every 1 or 2 years. Fortunatly I live in a bungalow so It's easy with a long brush and jet washer.

Maybe you could build the bikes for the gym only, not to a whole electrical company.

That would be cool to start a gym where each bike is connected to a TV and you can only watch what's on if you pedal fast enough. That would give me more motivation to exercise.

This has been done as has attaching a set of static peddles to a games console to make the Youth get some exercise whilst gaming on the PC.

  1. There is no incentive for what would be hard work. It is hard to get a few people to act voluntarily let alone 100's

2. This requires a LOT of people the average human puts out about 1/4 to 1/2 Hp, that's only 119 - 238 watts.

3. A far better idea is to build a biodigester plant at the sewage works. This turns our poo into methane which can be used as a heat source to generate electricity in a traditional manner, in fuel cells or as a direct fuel for an internal combustion engine connected to a generator. the end product can be used as fertaliser.

The delivery system already exists and at present we pay the sewage company to remove our waste and process it so it should result in at the very least cheap electricity.

In China they use this in remote areas and burn the methane to provide light and heat/cooking facilities 3 people produce enough poo to provide their own heat and light.

Have a look at some of these.


Not even complicated - In some country area it is nothing but a polythene tube about 2 m in dia and 50 m long- A rope is tied round the end 2 m in and another at the very end to form an air lock.

Undo end rope - Shovel in Poo. - Tie up to seal - undo second rope and walk on the tube to push Poo into the main chamber - tie up again. Minimal gas loss.

That's a bummer. Thanks for replying though.