Never let it be said that New York City doesn't get everything it can out of its 50 million-plus tourist visitors each year.
In this case, it's pedal-powered energy to offset the roughly 50 kilowatt-hours of electricity consumed by the famous lighted ball that drops to signal the New Year.
Times Square, site of the famous ball drop that ushers in the New Year, has now been outfitted with a rack of six stationary Citi Bikes that visitors (and residents) can pedal to charge batteries.
New York Times SquareEnlarge Photo
The bikes are propped up on dynamometers that can generate about 75 Watts.
According to a member of the promotional team for the event, most people stay on the bikes for 2 to 5 minutes, generating 1 to 4 Watts apiece. One intrepid rider did stay on for an hour, hitting the 75-Watt mark.
The so-called Citi Bike Pedal Power Station, located on the southeast corner of Seventh Avenue and West 42nd Street, includes a meter that shows much electricity has been generated through human effort thus far.
According to an article yesterday, Times Square visitors are on track to fully charge about 20 12-Volt car batteries, which can provide up to 10 kilowatts--almost the 15,000 Watts needed to power up the famous ball, which contains 32,000 LED bulbs.
See photos of pedaling tourists here.
This kind of "free" power is not only a good marketing scheme for Citi Bike, which by early November had been used more than 5 million times since its Memorial Day launch, but it also offers the possibility of green electric power for other events.
One idea: Citi Bike spin classes to feed power into the city's grid.
Another: A pedal-powered music festival in Union Square Park, little more than a mile southeast of Times Square. Actually, the first one happened more than two years ago.
But it's going to be pretty chilly in NYC tonight, so if you--like 1 billion or so people around the world--are watching the ball drop in someplace much warmer, just appreciate the light from the ball ... and know that some of it came from sweating tourists.
Best wishes to all our readers for a happy, healthy, safe, and rewarding New Year!