Have you ever tried powering a light-bulb using a cycle powered generator? Last Wednesday I went to screening of the film “Chasing Ice” organised by take one action in which we were to power the entire presentation by cycling. I’ve had a go at cycled bulb lighting before and its hard work. Getting an incandescent bulb to light up anything like fully is a challenge even Wiggo wouldn’t relish. Compact fluorescent bulbs are easier but still take great effort. When I last tried it LED’s weren’t on offer, but these must be fairly easy since thay use 20% or less of the electricity of an incandescent bulb. So when I turned up for the outdoor screening at Edinburgh’s Botanic gardens I was expecting a small army of pedal power and spend the entire time pedalling. In actual fact the entire screening could be powered by 7 cyclists, 5 for the visuals and 2 for the sound (see pictures below). These powered a smallish screen back projected by an overheard projector and a reasonable sound system all linked to a laptop with the film on.
I had a go at pedalling for about 15 minutes at the beginning, but there was a small but constant queue of eager volunteers wanting a go. Lucky I’d bought some warm clothes, for if you have heard of smellavision, this was freezeavision. Whilst the film showed ice melting we sat there freezing. Unfortunately the technology let us down. Heavy rain at the previous nights showing had damaged the equipment on the visual side and something went wrong with the sound side connection. It meant that in practical terms we powered about a quarter of the evenings sound and three quarters of its vision.
As an experience it was interesting and the film was very good if depressing (but that is the subject of a future post). There are, however, some lessons here for our use of energy. The first is that its surprising what 7 cyclists can power. Technology has improved and electronics is getting more and more energy efficient. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we have more and more stuff and this overwhelms the efficiency gains. Our house is typical with often 4 out of 5 of us on computers. This makes us socially isolated and increases our energy use. To be fair the children are often doing homework and we have not reached the level of the mother who wrote an article in the Guardian Family supplement who banned all electronics for some months after she started telling her children dinner was ready by posting the news on FaceBook! We do sometimes sit down and all play a game together. In addition I’m trying to make sure I take time to read a book or play my guitar.
Links to the film and Take one action can be found on our Facebook page (but no meal time directives). Please vote in our poll also on the right hand side. If you like this article like us on Facebook at “No oil in the lamp”.