The Independent Variable - Matt Haugland

Monday, August 24, 2009

NYC Trip

Here are some pictures from my recent trip to New York:

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Renewable Energy Source

I think it would be great if prison inmates could be used to generate electricity. They are there all day without much to do but exercise. They could have stationary exercise bikes and other devices (maybe big hamster wheels?) attached to generators. That way they could stay in shape, have something to do, and give something back to society.

How much energy could they generate? According to this page, an average human can generate approximately 600 watts per day with a bike generator. According to the Department of Justice, the U.S. jail and prison population is approximately 2.3 million, which is enough to generate roughly 1.38 gigawatts of electricity. To put that in perspective, a typical large wind farm generates on the order of 0.1 gigawatts, and a typical nuclear power plant generates on the order of 1 gigawatt. 1.38 gigawatts is enough to power 500,000 to 1,500,000 homes, depending on the region.

Of course, it's unlikely that in practice it would be anywhere near the full 1.38 gigawatts. But even at 25% efficiency, the U.S. prison population should be able to power the equivalent of a medium-sized city.