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Human powered: Using elliptical machines equals energy

By Delaney DalyPioneer Staff WriterBEMIDJI - Bemidji State University students can now exercise and help the environment in one fell swoop, using elliptical machines installed at the Gillett Recreation-Fitness Center on campus to produce electricity.

BSU student works out
Bemidji State University junior Megan Bergeson works out on a ReRev elliptical machine, one of seven elliptical machines that generate their own electricity. The elliptical machines are in the Gillett Recreation and Fitness Center on campus. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

By Delaney Daly
Pioneer Staff Writer
BEMIDJI – Bemidji State University students can now exercise and help the environment in one fell swoop, using elliptical machines installed at the Gillett Recreation-Fitness Center on campus to produce electricity.
Of the center’s nine elliptical machines, seven are established with the new Renewable Energy Revolution system (ReRev), which adjusts cardio equipment so heat produced by its use is redirected into a central processing unit, thus exchanging human power with utility-grade electricity.
ReRev’s manufacturer asserts that a modified elliptical machine in regular use at a gym can create one kilowatt-hour of electricity every two days.  That is enough energy to use a vacuum cleaner for 45 minutes or power a laptop for an entire day.
Two years ago, students enrolled in an environmental science course at BSU approached Duane Biehn, associate director of campus recreation, about a variety of projects that could be completed to fulfill a class requirement.
“I directed the students to ReRev and it grew from there,” Biehn said.
As conversation was carried to implementing ReRev technology, student interest grew until BSU’s Student Senate, Sustainability Office, and recreational center became progressively more involved in developing the funding for the project.
Initiating a $5 “green fee” for each student per semester to support BSU’s sustainable energy goals helped the Sustainability Office raise $8,000 for the ReRev system. The amended machines are now able to show students how much energy they are producing when being used.
Biehn hopes for expansion of the system around BSU.
“There’s potential with other equipment,” he said, adding the department is “looking at doing it with upright bikes” too.
Biehn said he would like to see an education component with the new system as well.
“It would be nice to incorporate classes in this,” Biehn remarked, also acknowledging that the ReRev program is still quite novel.
“It is my understanding that we were one of the first in the Midwest,” Biehn said.
BSU is now one of the 36 facilities around the world using ReRev.

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