Welcome to `BikeGen I` – Kendal`s new Community `Power  Station`!

Amidst the current energy debates about a nuclear repository in West Cumbria, wind turbines next to Killington Lake, and shale gas extraction in Lancashire, you may not have noticed that Kendal now has its  very own Community Power Station.

`BikeGen I` made its inaugural debut in the gardens of The Brewery at Mintfest in September this year,  when members of the audience pedal-powered `BikeGen I ` to produce the power for the sound system used in the performance of `Biked UP` – a stunt bike dance by the young people of Kendal produced in partnership with professional choreographers at The Brewery.

The original idea behind the project came from Kendal`s `Creative Transition` Group who are looking at fun and imaginative ways to engage people in moving toward a sustainable future. The aim of the stunt bike dance was to bring different sections of the community together in a challenging project and `BikeGen I`, whilst providing the power for this specific event, was designed to be a long term community asset that could inspire and educate long after the Mintfest performance.

`BikeGen I` is now available for use by local groups and organisations in the South Lakes area. If you would be interested in using `BikeGen I` in school, for an event, or just to power your Christmas Party(!) ….. then please contact Chris Buxton at chris@creativetransition.org.uk

`BikeGen I` is an: 8 bicycle people-powered electricity generating `power station`,  and the result of 5 months of intensive research, testing and construction that it took to make the original idea a reality.

The rear wheel of each of the 8 bikes is supported off the ground on a stand which has a small electric motor with a roller attached to it. This is pressed up tight against the wheel so that pedalling the bike turns the roller, which in turn drives the motor so that it generates DC electricity. This is then fed from all of the 8 bikes into a single control box (the `flux capacitor`) that allows the power produced by the 8 bikes to be regulated and converted into a steady 240v AC mains type supply, which can then be used to power a variety of normal household appliances such as laptops, phone chargers, radios, light bulbs and T.Vs

Each cyclist pedalling steadily can generate approximately 50 to 60 watts of power so `BikeGen I` can create around 450 watts in total. The power requirements of various electrical items obviously varies, but it is interesting to note that Mark Cavendish, the professional cyclist from the Isle of Man, can generate over 1000 watts over a short distance in a sprint finish for the line but that, even with power output of Tour de France Winner Bradley Wiggins as well, they would struggle to produce the watts necessary to boil a normal kettle and make themselves a brew.

The whole development process of `BikeGen I` was not without its challenges, but it was a great learning experience, and there were several light-hearted moments on the way reminiscent of the film `Back to the Future`, with burnt out components as a result of over–exuberant testing and whacky designer `Doc Brown` emerging wide eyed and jubilant from a cloud of swirling grey smoke….

So where next?

`BikeGen I` was designed to try and represent the many aspects we would want from a future electricity supply – clean, safe (unless you consider falling off a stationary bike dangerous), healthy, locally produced and owned, fun(!), free of pollution and unlike nuclear power and shale gas extraction there is no toxic waste, no threat to our landscape and very little likelihood of  triggering minor earthquakes …..

It`s true you would need a lot of people pedalling a lot of the time to power a modern home, but that in itself is one great values of `BikeGen I` – it actually highlights how much power we consume, and waste, and the amount of effort necessary to produce all that. It is much easier to pedal-power a high efficiency A rated light bulb than a low efficiency E or F rated one, – with the link between production and consumption clearly demonstrated by the amount of effort required from your legs! If we all had to start pedal-powering our own domestic appliances it is quite likely that anything that was not of the highest `A efficiency` rating would be replaced for one that was by the next day…..

Ultimately, it is hoped `BikeGen I` will help us in considering  ways  of producing power that ensure we have a healthy environment, healthy society and healthy economy, – i.e. the best of all worlds –  and how  each of us might contribute to achieving that.

Chris Buxton

Kendal `Creative Transition` Group



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