Dr. Nathan Phillips, an associate professor of geography and environment at Boston University, first worked with a bicycle-powered electricity generator while conducting research in the depths of an Ecuadorian tropical rainforest. Researchers require electricity for charging batteries and other electronic devices such as GPS systems, digital cameras, and computers. The simple invention of a compact bike-powered electricity generator is now being considered an important invention in energy diversification and accessibility for remote and urban places alike.
Phillips points out that diversifying and localizing energy sources reduces the vulnerability of systems while increasing their productivity. His office runs on nearly 100% renewable energy through solar panels outside his window, and his bike generator. Phillips now focuses his time on addressing small system opportunities for electricity production, such as the bicycles. Traveling to Costa Rica to visit the School for Field Studies’ field station, he demonstrated the possibility of using bike generators to power light bulbs, laptops, and other small energy-reliant items. This type of simple sustainability provides a breadth of options. By connecting bikes to generators, Phillips has opened the door for rural development and new research units.
This example emphasizes the possibility of small-scale solutions to large-scale issues. Research centers like the School for Field Studies, are often located in remote places in order to conduct effective research. Running power lines is inefficient, and renewable energy generators can be very expensive to install and difficult to replace. These are important factors for remote and extreme weather-prone areas. In city centers, harnessing human power has taken the form of public transit turnstiles and gyms, where equipment is hooked up to electricity generators. Yet for remote locations, this affordable solutions is easy to move and maneuver. These types of energy diversification inventions are projected to rise as long-term sustainability takes center stage to guide global aid and development agendas.