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Crowd Farm

Given the opportunity for yet more indiscriminate self-linking, which undoubtedly is a favorite past-time here on Pruned, we'll take it, even though Crowd Farm, an interesting, albeit less than original, proposal to “harvest the energy of human movement in urban settings” by James Graham and Thaddeus Jusczyk, has been rightly covered by just about everyone during our recent hiatus.

But firstly, in the press release linked to above, you'll read that “a Crowd Farm in Boston's South Station railway terminal would work like this: A responsive sub-flooring system made up of blocks that depress slightly under the force of human steps would be installed beneath the station's main lobby. The slippage of the blocks against one another as people walked would generate power through the principle of the dynamo, a device that converts the energy of motion into that of an electric current.”

And some incredible bits of number crunching: “One step, for instance, can power two 60W light bulbs for one second. But multiply that step by 28,527 and you have enough energy to power a moving train for one second. And if you multiply a single step by 84,162,203? Enough energy to power the launch of a space shuttle.”

We say incredible, because it sounds too good to be true (or perhaps not even good enough?). Did they, for instance, consider energy loss and storage? Will the amount of energy be even enough to offset the cost maintenance, let alone the initial cost? But in any case, we'd truly love to finally see a feasibility test of this technology.

And now to some awesomely indiscriminate self-linking.

Wave Garden by Yusuke Obuchi
The Kumbh Mela Array
The Piezo Array
Airborne-Diving in the Southern Ocean
Modeling Urban Panic
  • Jeff Li
  • September 15, 2007 at 12:51:00 AM CDT
  • At first glance, crowd farming seems an good idea, but isn't it really a bit of smoke and mirrors -- almost like a perpetual motion machine proposal?

    The theory is that “One step ... can power two 60W light bulbs for one second..." except that the person who powered that step was actually *going* somewhere and if the complete energy he exerted to move towards his destination was channeled instead into producing power then he would not move. Likewise even if you only use the power of half of his step, wouldn't that person then take twice as long to get where he was going?

    So to make this feasible, one would have to really take an truly small amount of energy to make it non-intrusive, and I would think that the purported gains would quickly become uneconomical given the amount of infrastructure that would need to be installed to harvest this energy. Nor does this account for the annoyance of walking on a mushy surface, and the annoyance of going somewhere taking longer, both of which would seem incentives for people to avoid the whole generator in the first place.

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