Permaculture Explained (Volume III Issue 14): Catch and Store Energy

“Make hay while the sun shines”

fanSHEN are a theatre company whose work promotes ideas of environmental, social and financial sustain-agility. fanSHEN also seek to embed these ideas in their making process. They have teamed up with pedal power specialists Magnificent Revolution to rethink how to power their productions – and to raise awareness about energy among their audiences.

fanSHEN’s current project GreenandPleasantLand is an outdoor show for families about the search for a more sustainable future. The sound for the show is powered by bicycle generators, pedaled by children from the audience. These bicycle generators, provided by Magnificent Revolution, provide a way of engaging people’s interest in alternatives to traditional energy sources and also support the message of the show.

For their next project (entitled Cheese), fanSHEN and Magnificent Revolution planned to focus on how to capture and store energy sustainably for a theatre production. This production will be powered by capturing energy from people working out in local gyms during the daytime, storing it and using it to power the sound and lighting for the performance in the evening.

The machines (a combination of exercise bikes, rowing machines and steppers) will generate energy in a similar way to bicycle generators, using permanent magnet motors with rollers attached. The rollers will be turned by the motion of the gym machines, which in turn will generate an electrical current. The electricity generated will be stored in an ultra capacitor (a type of battery that has a higher power density than a conventional battery).

Traditional gyms involve people expending huge amounts of energy and using a lot of electricity to do so. The fundamental idea behind the project is to capture and store some of that energy – and use it to power a theatre production. An additional benefit of the project is that it will raise awareness about energy use among gym users. People working out will be told when they have generated enough energy to charge a phone, to boil a kettle, to power a television for an hour – so that they can clearly conceptualise the different amounts of energy that different appliances use.

fanSHEN will document in detail the process of adapting the machines, how users respond to them and the process of using them to power a theatre production on their website, www.fanshen.org.uk

Dan Barnard