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Spin bikes to help provide electrical power to McPhee

RELEASED: April 29, 2011

EAU CLAIRE — The definition of a high-energy workout is about to change at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Indoor bicycles used for spinning classes soon will be fitted with technology that will transfer the energy generated by people riding the bikes to the McPhee Center's electrical grid, said Al Wiberg of University Recreation & Sport Facilities.

"Anytime someone is spinning, they will be producing electricity," said Wiberg, who began researching the technology a year ago after seeing a story about it on television. "As people are spinning, the wheel goes around and it creates energy, and we will now be able to harness that energy. It will go right into McPhee's electrical grid. It's an exciting endeavor we're jumping into here. We're helping the environment while also promoting health and fitness."

Each of the 22 bikes used for spinning classes in McPhee 111 will be fitted with the Green Revolution equipment in mid-May, Wiberg said, noting that UW-Eau Claire will be the first public college or university in the country to install the Green Revolution technology. To date, the technology is primarily used in private fitness facilities throughout the United States.

Each spin bike also will be fitted with a monitor that indicates how much power a rider is producing, and a 46-inch monitor will be mounted to the spin room's wall to track the amount of power the class as a whole is generating, Wiberg said.

UW-Eau Claire currently offers about 10 one-hour spin classes a week during the academic year, as well as several classes during the summer, Wiberg said. During an hourlong class, 20 spinners will produce enough energy to light 120 fluorescent light bulbs or power two laptops for an hour, he said.

"It's amazing that by exercising we will be able to produce clean energy that goes right into the building's electrical grid," Wiberg said.

The Student Senate will fund the $30,000 bike project through its Environmental Endeavors Commission. The EEC allocates the senate's "green fund," the student segregated fee of $10 per semester — about $210,000 annually — collected to help reduce the university's environmental impact.

"The first thing that attracted me to the spin project was the 'Jetsons factor,'" said Benjamin Ponkratz, director of the EEC. "A bike that produces electricity seemed so futuristic or utopian. As we took a more serious look at the proposal, we saw the bikes also were a tremendous tool for educational awareness. While the total annual output of the bikes amounts to a small fraction of the electric consumption of McPhee, riders can feel like they are contributing to a moral cause by reducing global warming, while also improving their health."

Helping people understand that they can do things as individuals to support sustainability efforts is an important part of the spin bike initiative, Wiberg said.

"We're creating a culture of awareness," Wiberg said. "People taking part in our spinning classes will help reduce their carbon footprint and get healthy at same time. We're already hearing from students who don't spin but say they want to come in because it's new and exciting. So we're also encouraging a healthier lifestyle for our students."

Some faculty in the kinesiology department have expressed interest in using the bikes in their courses, and leaders of student groups that focus on health and fitness also have inquired about the bikes, Ponkratz said.

The Green Revolution project is one of many initiatives on campus that support the university's overall sustainability efforts, Ponkratz said, noting that many of those initiatives were created and supported by UW-Eau Claire's "tremendously dedicated student body."

The Student Senate is in the process of transforming the EEC into the Student Office of Sustainability, which will be run by three paid interns, Ponkratz said. The interns will create and carry out green projects, he said.

"The change will create a much more effective and proactive student-driven sustainability movement on campus," Ponkratz said. "SOS will allow the students to 'flex our green muscle.'"

For more information about the spin bike project, contact Al Wiberg at 715-836-5601 or wibergad@uwec.edu, or Benjamin Ponkratz at 715-214-5335 or ponkrabnt@uwec.edu.

-30-

JB/DW

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