October 31, 2011; Source: Huffington Post | Occupy Wall Street brought energy efficiency to a new level when the Sustainability Working Group introduced an innovative project involving bicycle-powered generators. This effort began after an incident on October 28, where dozens of New York City Fire Department and Police Department officers confiscated six gas and diesel generators from Zuccotti Park due to “safety issues.”
After the generators were seized, individuals involved in Occupy Boston contacted protesters in New York and offered to give them bicycles attached to motors. This gave the Occupy Wall Street protestors a groundbreaking way to create power by simply peddling at bike stations.
Each bike charges batteries capable of running for up to 100 hours. The only real downside is the significant amount of physical exertion it takes to power them. It can take up to two hours of uninterrupted pedaling to reach 12.5 volts. To fully charge a battery could take up to 6 hours of pedaling. The fully charged batteries are brought into the Occupy Wall Street encampment and used to power laptops, cellphones, and all media and communication around protests. With the cold winter months on their way, maybe OWS inhabitants will appreciate the warm bicycle workouts—and will surely enjoy the warmth from the bicycle-powered batteries. In a youtube video depicting the confiscation of the generators, protestors spoke about how the generators were helping prevent hypothermia. Since the October 28 incident, there have been increased reports of hypothermia among the protesters in Zuccotti Park.
The Sustainability Working Group, including affiliates of MIT Media Lab, Pedal Power, and Time's Up!, has already received donations of bicycles and other parts to create more generators, and are seeking donations for expensive equipment that would allow them to build even more of them. Participants in the Occupy Wall Street gathering will be able not only to talk about their commitment to overcoming the wealth disparity in the U.S. but also to demonstrate an environmentally positive approach to the energy generation.—Aine Creedon