I recently read an article on tidal power (using wave energy to generate electricity) and this got me thinking about other ways of generating power. While I was running, I was thinking of power on a large scale. But, checking my pace, I happened to remember a watch that was powered by the motion of the wearer and this got me thinking of power on a small scale. After my workout, I took a shower and all the ideas sort of blended together as I watched the water run down the drain. The idea was that there seem to be many peripheral (or tiny) ways to generate power.
To be a bit more specific, it struck me that there are all sorts of potential sources of tiny amounts of power that could be used to generate power in the aggregate or perhaps used to help power the very means that was generating the power. For example, water running into a toilet or down a shower drain could turn tiny generators and create a tiny amount of power. This would not be much, but combined with other sources of such tiny power, it could add up to an amount that would make it economically viable. Or perhaps not.
As an example of the second sort, consider a stationary bike. The one I started using during my recovery from quadriceps tendon repair runs on electricity. It uses this power to run the display, but it also provides the necessary resistance via powered magnets (as opposed to the old way of having what amounts to a brake provide resistance). Since I was pedaling away like mad on the bike, it would seem that an electric exercise bike could be made that was powered (at least in part) by this pedaling. Similar things could be done with other exercise devices.
Of course, the obvious question is whether the cost of adding this capability would be worth the cost of doing so. After all, if you had to pay $50 extra for a bike that also had its own generator and it only saved you $5 during its lifetime, then that would have been a bad financial decision. It could also be a bad environmental decision if the impact of making the generator was greater than simply using electricity from the outlet.
Since I live in Florida, I have considered getting solar panels. However, when I priced getting the large panels, I decided that I would just have to live with paying the city for my power. But, I did notice when a neighbor got solar powered lights to line his walkway. Those lights are relatively cheap and this suggests that it would be possible to use solar power in other small ways. I already have an emergency lantern that can charge via a crank or solar panels, so there do seem to be applications for this. In fact, small solar panels for charging laptops and cell phones have been around since the 1990s. However, they do not seem to have really taken off-mostly likely due to cost and the relatively slow charging rates.
It might be possible and viable to use other sorts of tiny power generators that either duplicate large scale systems on a small scale or are new technologies. While I doubt I’ll ever have the extra disposable income to afford such things (funny how eco stuff is so often expensive stuff), I find the idea of peripheral (or tiny) power interesting.