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People Power: Turning Body Heat Into Energy

STOCKHOLM (Ivanhoe Newswire) --Coal, oil, solar, electric, natural gas, propane, and hydro -- the list of energy sources spans from below the earth’s surface to millions of miles above it. Now there’s a new source of power that that could put to use the seven billion people who live here.

Think Sweden and you might think of snow, or the sweet sounds from Abba or even the hot discount store IKEA, but now Swedes want you to think energy! They are the first to use the body heat of some 250,000 daily commuters in one train station to heat a building next door.

“It’s the first that we know of in the world where shipping between buildings have been done,” Klas Johansson told Ivanhoe.

As the people eat, shop and run to catch the next train body heat is generated.

“The guy in charge of central station said hey, I have all this excess heat. He said I have a lot of people everywhere. We need to cool the building all the time we have a lot of excess heat. He said why don’t we just ship it over to the new construction project …yeah sure, why not. That’s how the idea was born,” Johansson said.

Here’s how it works. The surplus body heat is captured by the station’s ventilation system and used to heat water, which is then pumped to the building across the street—about a football field away from the train station.

“Here we have the excess heat from the central station coming into this building,” Johansson explained.

It’s in a real-estate company, where the hot water heats the building.

“I thought it was fantastic to be part of a building like that,” Ulrika, an employee told Ivanhoe.

Although this is the first time body heat has been used to heat another building, the idea of using people to generate power is catching on. Back in the U.S, MIT researchers are working on something called a crowd farm. They want to generate electricity from populated places. They say a single human step can power two 60-watt light bulbs for one second. Imagine a crowd of 30,000 people—that’s enough power to move a train.

“We have to start looking at buildings in an urban context to sort of figure out how can my building over here can interact with its surroundings,” Johansson concluded.

Giving new meaning to the term people power!

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