Power to the people: Occupy Wall Street uses bikes to generate energy

Having lost their gas-powered generators, the protestors at Occupy Wall Street are turning to a more eco-friendly alternative: pedal power.

Keegan Stephan, a bike mechanic and environmentalist at the Zuccotti Park site of the protest in New York, has been pedaling a stationary bronze Schwinn bicycle to provide energy for the protesters' encampment.

"People get really excited when they see these bikes," George Pingeon, a bike tour guide involved with the effort, told the New York Times.

How does the contraption work? The bike is connected to a flywheel, which in turn connects to a dynamo, the Times explains. That dynamo creates energy, which flows through a motor and a one-way diode to charge a black battery.

When fully charged--after about 6 hours of pedaling--the battery might provide power for around 100 hours, Stephan estimated. It'll be used to power laptops, cellphones, and other devices being used by the protesters.

Stephan said he had made the machine over a year ago, and had used it to power the refrigerator in his apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He brought it to Zuccotti Park a few weeks ago, to offer an example of how people might create their own power.

Then Friday, police confiscated the gas-powered generators that the protesters--some of whom have slept in the park for more than a month--had been using. The Fire Department has said that storing large amounts of fuel in the park violates fire codes.

That's when Stephan's contraption--joined since Saturday by three other bikes attached to motors that Occupy Boston protestors had shipped down to New York--suddenly came in handy.

One advantage? There figure to be plenty of volunteers. "I'm going to ask the tourists if they want to help pedal," Pingeon said.