All posts by Bethan Riach

Portable Battery Solutions for Low Wattage Applications

Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking, gives us the low down on portable battery solutions for low wattage applications, perfect for  awkward locations on green field event sites where you might need to power satellite cabins, wifi masts or even hot water urns for volunteers.

Tim suggests energy efficient alternatives to over-specced construction site generator and shares the six key things to keep in mind when choosing your product. 

“For those of you that work on mass participation running events and festival green field sites, I’m sure you are all too familiar with difficult requests for low wattage power drops in the most awkward of locations. Whether it’s portable PAs and backline for trackside performers, satellite cabins, timing mats, wifi masts or hot water urns for volunteers; if you do not have a mains or temporary power supply nearby, then you have to provide a dedicated generator for these applications.

Currently, the event rental market offers very little in terms of power plant below 12kVA unless you are willing to risk using a 5 to 12kVA construction site generator, which I would caution against as their unstable voltage regulation can play havoc with sensitive AV and IT equipment. Another reason to avoid this scenario is that, given that the loads we are talking about here are in the region of 20 – 2000W, any generator within this range is going to be operating highly inefficiently, meaning higher levels of emissions.

A few years ago, I would often have opted for an ‘inverter suitcase’ style generator for these kinds of applications, typically something from the Honda EUi range:

Their built-in inverters outputted Sine Wave power, making them suitable for use with even the most sensitive of electronic equipment, and their eco-throttle system ensured optimum power generation vs fuel consumption. However, because these units run on unleaded petrol, many local councils have banned their use on environmental grounds, alongside growing safety concerns about people trying to refuel them whilst they are actually running. So, as we try to transition away from diesel generators, what are the alternative battery solutions available for these kinds of low power applications, and what should we look out for when choosing the right piece of kit?

One such solution, and probably my current first choice, is the WattSun NL pop up power product range (pictured). Their modular system comprises of two parts, a ‘dock’ which houses either a 1.5kW or 2kW inverter with 1.4kWhs of internal lithium battery storage, and a series of ‘packs’ which are essentially additional battery storage modules, each with 1.6kWhs of stored energy. Up to four packs can connect to each dock, providing a maximum system capacity of 2000W output with 7.8kWhs of storage. Their product form factor is remarkable and the docks and packs connect wirelessly, making them the ultimate quick deploy, plug and play solution.

Green Voltage also offers a slick solution, by way of their VOLTstack 2K portable battery system. This unit comes with a 2.4kW rated inverter and 2.5kWhs of usable energy storage. They also offer the VOLTstack 5K model, with a 4.8kW inverter and 5kWhs of usable battery capacity. Although they primarily operate in the TV, film and broadcast markets, I have seen their products used on events and the build quality is exceptional; check them out HERE.

There are a handful of other similar solutions on the market, including the Nano Series from Hybrid Power, which is available with inverters ranging from 400W – 3000W and up to 5kWhs of battery storage. MHM Group also offer some similar rental products, the first being their BATPACK 1-2, which features a 1kW inverter with 2kWhs of energy storage, and then their BATPACK 5-15 with a 5kW inverter and up to 15kWhs of stored energy.

Whichever product you choose, here’s a few key things to consider:

  1. Is the inverter suitable for the application’s peak load? If your baseload is just a few hundred Watts but from time to time someone is going to turn on a kettle, then the inverter must be sufficiently sized to cope with this increased load, however infrequently it might occur.
  2. Consider how long you will need power for to ensure you have adequate battery storage. If your load is 0.25kW for 8 hours, then you will need 2kWhs of energy storage: energy = watts (power) x hours (duty cycle). Also, check what the usable battery storage is; this is generally less than the total battery storage capacity, especially in non-lithium battery product ranges.
  3. Recharging: check the datasheets on recharge times and what kinds of chargers/mains adapters you might need. Some products can charge from renewables whilst in use, whereas others cannot charge and discharge at the same time.
  4. Some modular units are ‘hot swappable’, i.e. you can disconnect discharged battery packs and connect fresh ones whilst the unit is still outputting. Always check the spec sheets before attempting this!
  5. Check for safety features, especially outgoing circuit protection, socket configurations and IP rating – not all products are equal in this respect!
  6. Check that the ambient operating temperatures, both in terms of the units outputting and recharging, are suitable for where you are planning to use the products.

Follow Tim Benson on LinkedIn

This guest blog originally appeared in the May 2022 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbowww.vision2025.org.uk 

Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres World Tour People-Power Energy Zone

Live from Mexico in the people-powered Energy Zone of Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres World Tour, Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking and Energy Consultant on Coldplay’s current tour, updates us on the tech and innovation which allows energy from fans to be converted, via kinetic dancefloors and pedal bikes, into power for the show. As well as spotlighting the remarkable clean tech solutions, and the expertise required to maximise system outputs for this stadium-ready portable mini-micro-grid, Tim also celebrates the innovation of the band themselves, who have pushed the boundaries to engage fans in a hitherto untried way. Read the blog:

“It’s 16.30 hours at the Foro Sol stadium, Mexico City, as the blistering sun mercifully begins to descend. Suddenly, some 26,000 fans, old and young, sprint into view, vying for the best vantage points to take in the sensory delights of Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres World Tour (MOTS) spectacular. Strangely, though, there’s also a hive of activity downstage midway between the final delay towers, where fans are furiously pedalling on bikes and leaping around on raised platforms.

‘Is he mad?’ I hear you ask. Definitely not, in fact I’m privileged to say that I’m part of creating this unlikely melee of activities.

This is MOTS Energy Zone, an area dedicated to people-power, where the electrical team, under the guidance of Head Electrician Paul Traynor, cunningly harvest energy from the movement of Coldplay fans. The two raised platforms are, in fact, kinetic dancefloors courtesy of Dutch firm Energy Floors. As fans bounce around to the bass lines of House of Pain’s Jump Around, their movement produces energy, which then charges a series of Wattsun battery packs. Similarly, the 12 bikes are fitted to Kinetic Effects’ PedGen bike stands, incorporating DC motors, which can produce hundreds of watts each. The energy generated by the bikes is stored in a SMART Power 50kWh battery system, which in turn inverts and distributes AC power to the ‘C-Stage’, a circular structure where the band play an intimate set surrounded by adoring fans.

If you look closely at the risers surrounding the delay towers and behind the stage, you’ll also see solar canvasses provided by US company Pvilion. These rapid-deploy PV panels charge batteries that feed an inverter providing energy to the LX in the stage underworld. Back of house, you will also find a mini-solar farm that provides a 100% renewable charge station for the Wattsun battery packs & docks. These portable battery solutions are being used for a range of applications, including stage backline, LED lights, video control racks & DMX buffers.

However, the most remarkable thing about the Energy Zone is how it all dovetails: These aren’t plug and play solutions that naturally knit together, they have to be constantly optimised and tweaked to maximise system outputs. Energy and power data has to be captured, relayed to the venue screens and reported back to the band’s Sustainability Director and team. In many ways, it’s the ultimate renewable energy mix, a portable mini-micro-grid incorporated into a stadium touring set up – no mean feat I would say.

The innovation of Coldplay themselves, and the willingness of their production and touring crews to push the boundaries like they have never been pushed before, is clearly paying off. Not only are they championing remarkable clean tech solutions, but they are also engaging fans in a hitherto untried way – more of this please touring industry!”

Follow Tim Benson on Linkedin.

This guest blog originally appeared in the April 2022 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbowww.vision2025.org.uk 

A Winter’s Tale of Wonderland Lighting

Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking, shares his hard won advice on energy efficient outdoor lighting for winter wonderlands. Power providers with a penchant for low energy solutions can geek out on LED lighting learning curves, dealing with power factor fluctuations, why all brands of fixtures are not created equal, and how to avoid unfortunate Winter’s Tale Exits, pursued by squirrels and rabbits…

“Much of my last two and a half months were spent on a site managing power for a lighting trail. The environs were stunning, the production team dreamy and we had devised, what we thought anyway, was a highly energy efficient power management plan.

Those of you who know your Shakespeare will be familiar with his famously challenging stage direction in A Winter’s Tale – ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’. In our case, it was more ‘Exit, pursued by squirrels and rabbits,’ as for the first time in my 20+ year career, it was the local wildlife’s newfound taste for DMX and TRS cable that left us scratching our heads when random fixtures simply stopped working.

However, another new problem also reared its ugly head and took us completely by surprise: power factor fluctuations in LED fixtures. Having carefully calculated the LX loads by area, we were surprised to see the generators working so hard. On closer inspection, we observed massively irregular power factor readings on the DSE generator panels, with L1 dropping to 0.35pf (power factor) and L3 as low as 0.18pf on occasions.

Power factor is a complex beast. Cummins define it as ‘the relationship between the active real power required to do the job (kWe) and the consumed apparent power (kVA)’. The optimal situation is where current and voltage are in phase, which makes the power factor unity (1.0pf) but this is rare, particularly in relation to LED fixtures.

The alternators in rental generators are designed to operate safely between 0.8 and 1.0pf. However, when running high volumes of fixtures such as LED floods and pars that rely on capacitors to operate, the generator’s alternator can effectively be de-rated because the excitation system becomes overloaded. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that the fixtures are generally constantly switched on in these kinds of scenarios, so there is no let up on the pressure applied to the alternator. We also observed problems with huge returns down the Neutral line, as the capacitors would draw their full current but use only a percentage of this, merrily sending the rest back down the Neutral line.

The more we investigated these spooky readings, the more apparent it became that not all LED fixtures are equal. We observed huge variations between different brands; both in terms of build quality and performance. In the end, we had to install larger size generators to ensure that the alternator de-rating was compensated for and we were hugely fortunate that the tech team on the ground were able to support us with modifying the heavy mains plan to resolve these problems.

Whilst this project presented some interesting challenges, it was also a huge learning curve. On the surface, what looked to be a relatively stable and low energy load, turned out to be something all together more complex. My advice to anyone embarking on similar projects next festive season would be:

  1. If you are planning to use a variety of different lamps from different manufacturers, run fixture tests using power analysers before installing on site to ensure any power factor anomalies are identified
  2. Mix up the generator loadings and apply linear loads to those with high volumes of LED fixtures, this will help balance out any power factor lead and lag issues
  3. Monitor the power factor closely through the relevant page in the control panel menu
  4. And, of course, watch out for squirrels and rabbits!!! “

This guest blog originally appeared in the January 2022 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbowww.vision2025.org.uk 

Photo by Elina Fairytale from Pexels

Round up of Vision: 2025 Festival Campsite Power Panel

Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking, gives a round up of the ‘Sustainable Power for Festival Campsites’ Panel, held at the Vision: 2025 Conference last month, ahead of a new resource for event organisers launching in December.

Tim recounts key experiences and learnings shared by panel guests; Megan Best of Native Events/Body & Soul Festival (Ireland), Jake Pearce of Pearce Hire (UK), as well as gems of wisdom from the wider Powerful Thinking board; he looks at some easy wins for campsite lighting, explores how campsites can be a proving ground for innovation and shares his (somewhat controversial) views on biofuels…

“Ahead of launching our new festival campsite resources, I thought it might be useful to summarise the lively panel discussion that we hosted as part of the Vision: 2025 Conference at last month’s Showman’s Show. The panel featured Megan Best of Native Events/Body & Soul Festival (Ireland), Jake Pearce of Pearce Hire (UK) & included gems of wisdom from the wider Powerful Thinking board.

The general consensus was that campsites often play second fiddle to other festival areas when it comes to power provision. Often older generators with inaccurate analogue panels and no telemetry are sited in these areas, making it difficult to monitor energy usage with any degree of accuracy. Power advancing for campsites can also be hit and miss, especially in terms of food traders and glamping facilities; generators are often powered up and simply left running until the last camper has vacated the fields, with zero onsite interventions to improve efficiencies.

At Body & Soul Festival, Megan successfully trialed restricting the operating hours of some campsites amenities to help reduce fuel consumption. The usage patterns of these amenities, for example showers, info points & campsite stores, are fairly predictable, so provided festival-goers are made aware of opening hours, this can be an effective and non-disruptive solution. Jake made the point that, where restrictions could not be put in place, factoring in diversity was key to ensure that generators were not oversized for the actual campsite demand, especially in terms of power provision for live in vehicles and crew camping areas.

Campsite lighting was another hot topic for debate. It still shocks me when I see kilometers of festoon lighting and numerous flood lights left on 24/7 throughout festival campsites, and indeed other site areas. The excuses that I have heard for this kind of behavior have ranged from, ‘well it’s only light bulbs, what harm can that do?’ to, ‘we just don’t have the crew to go round switching things on and off’. The panel and audience all agreed that this laissez-faire attitude can have a very real impact on energy consumption and secondly it sends terrible messages to the festival-goers about the organiser’s attitude to energy efficiency. Jake cited some very simple tech solutions that can be employed to automate campsite lighting, including inline timers and photovoltaic sensors that open and close circuits depending on ambient lux levels.

Campsites as a proving ground for innovation was also discussed. Megan recounted how Body & Soul was one of the first festivals in Ireland to try out hybrid power generators in their crew camping area. This trial actually spurred them on to design and build their own battery system fed by solar, which was then introduced to the main festival site with great success. Jake agreed that hybrid systems, whereby generators manage the peak load whilst charging the systems batteries and then switch to battery only for baseload management, certainly have a role to play, but that hire costs could be prohibitive for smaller, shorter festivals. However, he conceded that, with the pending hike in fuel duty coming into play as of 1st April 2022, hybrid systems would almost certainly gain greater market penetration.

Somewhat controversially, I suggested that the wider use of biofuels was actually leading to greater inefficiencies, as it almost excused organisers for sticking to their business-as-usual power management models. I further argued that it discouraged them for seeking to address the number one priority in the power management hierarchy, which is use less power and use it more efficiently. Here Jake cited examples of how Pearce Hire set their generators up in a load demand configuration: what this involves is replacing stand alone large gensets with smaller synced twin-packs, where one runs constantly to manage the baseload (the priority 1 set) and the second one only kicks in when the demand increases beyond a programmed threshold (the priority 2 set). As the demand drops, the priority 2 set switches off and remains in standby until called upon again. This fully automated process is now widely used by many festivals, but there remains a shortage of syncable units under 100kVA, making this a less efficient solution for smaller camping festivals where peak campsite demand is considerably lower than 80kW.

It only remains for me to say a huge thank you to; Megan, Jake and all the Powerful Thinking board members for their invaluable contributions to our campsite resource pack. The full guide to more sustainably powering campsites will be available for free on our website in late December.”

This guest blog originally appeared in the November 2021 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbowww.vision2025.org.uk 

Powerful Thinking to launch Guide to Sustainable Festival Campsite Power

Powerful Thinking will launch a ‘how to’ guide on sustainably powering festival campsites, at this year’s Showman’s Show as part of the Vision: 2025 Conference on Wednesday 20th October.

The Campsite Power Guide is the first in a series of new Powerful Thinking resources that aim to hasten the move to sustainable power solutions at events – and comes in response to the move to organisers hosting glamping events in place of their regular shows throughout the Covid pandemic.

In this month’s blog Tim Benson shares details of the Vision: 2025 Powerful Thinking session as well as giving us a power supplier’s insight into the summer event season just gone, which saw huge pressure on the supply chain and organisers conviction to ‘build back better’ as the industry went into overdrive to squeeze shows into just a few months when restrictions eased in July.

“Since the official cessation of full lockdown restrictions on July 19th this year, our industry has gone into overdrive. Event organisers have understandably done their upmost to squeeze a full season of shows into just a few months, often confirming hires at the very last minute. This has put huge pressure on the supply chain and, in some cases, driven up hire rates exponentially. Personally, I have fielded numerous calls from organisers desperately seeking batteries, generators, distribution and site lighting because they have been let down by their power contractor or a plant hire company; and why is this the case? Because said companies have over promised in a desperate quest to recoup lost income and then been unable to deliver.

Worse still are some of the larger promoters – I will mention no names here, but you know who you are – who have insisted that their suppliers cut their hire rates to secure contracts. This kind of bully mentality helps no one and leads to a devaluation of the services and equipment that differentiates so many of the smaller, more innovative firms from the larger businesses.

To compound matters, the interest shown in more sustainable power solutions during lockdowns under the guise of the ‘build back better’ campaign, has dissipated completely. Essentially, we are back to square one where so many events are forced into reverting to their business-as-usual operational models. None of the above is helpful in restoring our industry to its former glory. We are a proving ground where new clean-tech can be trialled and tested but, under current conditions, our best efforts are being thwarted.

With this in mind, Powerful Thinking will be launching a series of new resources available free from our website. Given that so many festivals pivoted into organizing glamping events in place of their regular shows throughout the Covid pandemic, we start with a ‘how to’ guide on sustainably powering festival campsites, which we will launch at this year’s Showman’s Show as part of the Vision: 2025 Conference Wednesday 20th October. The Powerful Thinking session will include a panel hosted by myself and will feature Shaun Pearce, MD of Pearce Hire, & Megan Best of Native Events / Body & Soul Festival in Ireland, both of whom are Powerful Thinking board members. We will present examples of innovative new practices, discuss barriers and solutions to delivering more sustainable campsite power & finish with a list of top ten tips for making efficiency improvements & reducing emissions. “

This guest blog originally appeared in the September 2021 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbowww.vision2025.org.uk 

Reform of Red Diesel & Other Rebated Fuels Entitlement for the Events Industry

Blog: Reform of Red Diesel & Other Rebated Fuels Entitlement for the Events Industry

In this month’s guest blog Powerful Thinking’s Chair, Tim Benson, examines the potential impacts of the incoming government imposed reforms to red diesel & other rebated fuels entitlement next April – essential reading for event organisers and event power providers alike.

Tim clarifies where biofuels sit in the reforms and checks potential loopholes in policy with Priti Khatri, Policy Adviser for Excise & Environmental Taxes Policy Design. He speaks to event organisers and event industry organisations, as well as power contractors, about the potential impacts on their operations; questions the timing of such a hefty increase in fuel expenses for an industry reeling from the covid pandemic – and shares his thoughts on the long-term positives in terms of cutting CO2 emissions through an accelerated move to mains power, high storage capacity battery systems, and improved energy efficiency.

“As of April 2022, the event industry is set to see their generator & plant fuel bills skyrocket by almost 48 pence per litre. This is a direct result of policy changes introduced by the UK Government in their Finance Bill of 2021 & subsequent secondary legislation. Red diesel, which is taxed favorably in comparison to the white diesel used in road vehicles, can currently be used in generators & site plant machinery. However, as of 1st April 2022, this entitlement is being removed & event organisers will see their fuel bills soar by almost 50%.

The Government cites their 2050 net zero emissions objective as the primary driver here: according to their figures, red diesel usage accounts for 15% of the UK’s total diesel consumption, producing 14 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

Ambiguity in some of the policy wording led me to contact the Treasury directly. For example, the policy document states that exemptions apply for ‘heating & electricity generation in non-commercial premises’ & ‘off-grid power generation’ – could these be loopholes that event organisers could exploit? Priti Khatri, Policy Adviser for Excise & Environmental Taxes Policy Design, responded to my enquiry stating that, as most events are commercial in nature, they are unlikely to qualify for any ongoing entitlement to use rebated fuels.

There were also questions as to whether HVO biofuel would be exempt, as the policy document specifically references ‘biodiesel’ in their list of fuel categories to which this policy pertains. Priti’s response was emphatic: ‘HVO is renewable diesel & is 100% synthetic hydrocarbon, & therefore falls within the definition of gas oil’ [red diesel]. 

Furthermore, this new legislation prohibits the bulk purchasing of red diesel prior to 1st April for use thereafter. Customs & Excise are very clear that all traces of red diesel will need to be removed from fuel bowsers by this date &, failure to do so, could result in hefty fines.

From an environmental perspective, surely this seems like a positive step? By taxing red diesel users at the standard rate, the Government hopes that these financial penalties will incentivise generator users to reduce their overall consumption, take greater steps to be more energy efficienct & encourage investment in cleaner power generation technologies.  

In essence, this a long overdue carbon tax welcomed by many, & it should go a long way towards reducing the carbon footprint of our events.

Of course, theory & practice are two very different things. What on the surface might seem a positive & laudable environmental change has to be balanced against the needs & current state of the events industry, one that is still licking its wounds following 18 months of inactivity & virtually zero revenue. With this in mind, I approached event organisers, power contractors & industry bodies to ascertain their thoughts, a summary of which is set out below:

Event Organisers & Industry Bodies:

  • Worryingly, many were unaware that fuel prices were set to double; some said that industry press coverage around these changes has been minimal & they felt left in the dark
  • Organisers of both small & large scale events fear the impact the most; those putting on small shows with minimal budgets are concerned that said increases could sign the death knoll for their shows, whilst those organizing large scale events feel that raising ticket prices to cover these additional costs is untenable, particularly as they are already asking attendees to be mindful of their personal travel & waste carbon footprints
  • All agree that change is needed, but many question the timeline for introducing these measures, preferring a more staggered approach, particularly in light of dwindling revenues following recent lockdowns
  • Some question the impact of this policy change, arguing that more should be done to reduce the emissions associated with audience, talent & crew travel, logistics & waste
  • All state that more education is needed to move away from a dependence on generator power & liquid fuels.

Power Contractors

  • Most are concerned that it is down to them to explain these cost increases to their clients; major fuel suppliers such as Crown Oil & Speedy Fuels do reference these policy changes, but let’s face it, how often do we really click through their web pages?
  • Some fear that they will lose clients who cannot absorb the increase in fuel duty
  • Many power contractors work with clients who have a fixed power budget that includes generation, distribution, crew & fuel; with the increase in fuel costs, these clients will expect discounts in other areas, which may affect the profitability of power contractors & their ability to invest in new renewable technology
  • Cash flow will become a problem, particularly where large volumes of liquid fuel need to be pre-purchased on account & will not be paid for by the client until after the event
  • Fuel security will become a greater issue, as opportunists will be more likely to steal white diesel as this can be used in vehicles
  • Where power contractors hire to different markets, for instance both event clients who can only use white diesel & agricultural clients who are permitted to use red, tank cleaning costs will become an additional logistical overhead & will need to be policed rigidly
  • On a positive note, event organisers may be more incentivised to integrate battery technologies for base load management, as the monetized fuel savings will make the hire of these hybrid systems cost neutral    

Personally, I do welcome this policy change but it’s timing in light of the Covid pandemic is extremely challenging for our industry. I do also question the Government’s insistence on extending the taxation to biofuels. Whilst many of you know that I advocate energy efficiency over & above switching to biofuels, as we gradually transition to more ubiquitous mains power & high storage capacity battery systems, biofuels have a place to bridge the gap & help reduce the impact of our events.

Huge thanks to all my colleagues that took the time to contribute to this article, including Kevin Moore (Vision 9 & AIF), Colin Murphy (Great Run Company), Steve Heap (AFO), Michael Leaver (Manchester Pride), Shaun Pearce (Pearce Hire), George Nearn (Flying Hire Events), Rob Scully (ZAP Concepts) & Luke Howell (Hope Solutions).

This guest blog originally appeared in the July 2021 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbowww.vision2025.org.uk

Supplier Focus: Prolectric

Tim Benson spotlights Prolectric, one of the UK’s largest suppliers of off-grid, renewable lighting and power solutions to the construction, infrastructure and festivals sectors – who are also listed as one of Powerful Thinking’s Sustainable Energy Suppliers. With fuel efficiency becoming ever more of a priority as industries prepare for new legislation that will double the price of red diesel from early 2022, Tim looks at how Prolectric product range and ethos can help clients reduce consumption, carbon emissions and other vexing issues such as noise bleed and refuelling logistics, that surround conventional power provision. Read the full blog below:

“With Government legislation set to double the price of red diesel and some biofuels from 1st April 2022, never has it been more critical for event organisers to explore solutions to reduce their fuel consumption. With this in mind, I am devoting this month’s blog to supplier Prolectric, who recently registered with Powerful Thinking as a sustainable energy supplier.

Prolectric is one of the UK’s largest suppliers of off-grid, renewable lighting and power solutions to the construction, infrastructure and festivals sectors. Their solar and mobile battery storage products offer organisers a practical means of reducing their dependence on polluting fossil fuels and enabling them to achieve their carbon reduction targets.

A Prolectric spokesperson described their primary business goal as ‘Accelerating the change to a more sustainable future for businesses, communities and the planet’. On a practical note, they go on to state that their product range eradicates so many of the vexing issues that surround conventional power and site lighting solutions, for example noise bleed, refuelling logistics and harmful tailpipe emissions. 

Prolectric are constantly developing their technology and product ranges and, as a result have recently launched their integrated solar hybrid generator, namely the ProPower, a rental spec, mobile off-grid power solution. The ProPower packs the latest solar and LI-ion battery storage technology into a compact trailer – making it a clean, cost effective and easy to deploy hybrid generator. It can significantly cut fuel usage (reportedly by up to 90%) and, in turn, reduces both GHG and tailpipe emissions. The ProPower hybrid system comes with a 22kVA generator, a 15kVA inverter system, integrated solar PV and 35kWhs of battery storage.

Their solar lighting towers, which are proving particularly popular in the world of Film and TV location shoots, are flying out the doors. They include the award-winning ProLight – the only mobile solar lighting tower that operates all year round, even in challenging winter conditions. It comes with a 7.5m telescopic mast, can provide 550m2 coverage at a minimum lux level of 20, and outputs between 10,000 to 40,000 lumens. For more information, visit https://www.prolectric.co.uk

If you are an event industry power supplier genuinely offering innovative, emissions busting solutions, and are interested in learning more about the benefits of becoming a Powerful Thinking member, please drop us a line – it would be great to hear from you.

This guest blog originally appeared in the June 2021 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbowww.vision2025.org.uk

Sustainable Touring, Myth or Reality?

Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking, takes on tour emissions in his latest blog: With carbon emission from touring travel hitting the headlines as the industry gears up to restart Tim points out that emissions from power provision are still a crucial factor to address in order to move towards goals for net zero productions. Tim warns against reliance on a straight switch to alternative fuels alone and urges Production Managers and stakeholders to embrace efficiencies through broader energy management plans that incorporate better advancing and scheduling, wider use of mains supplies and on-site renewables, battery deployment and crucially, a behavioural step change.

“Touring is the latest live sector to be scrutinised under the sustainability microscope and quite rightly so. Its nomadic nature, whereby artists and their entourages clock up thousands of miles across multiple territories in the shortest timescale possible, results in huge levels of travel emissions. You don’t need to be a sustainability expert to understand the gravity of this, its impact is crystal clear to even the most ardent of fans and this is exactly what is driving change – audience perception. Cue the Live Nation Green Nation Touring Initiative, which cites audience sustainable lifestyle choices as a key driver for its roll out, and last week AEG Presents followed suit, announcing the formation of its Climate Positive Touring (CPT) group.

And yet there are so many other factors that contribute to tour emissions, many of which can be mitigated through technological interventions. However, there’s something more insidious at play here, a behaviour driven barrier that is thwarting the best efforts of those championing sustainable tour production. It boils down to a deep-rooted reluctance amongst the touring community to alter their production practices. This community is made up of multiple stakeholders, from TMs to LDs, label representatives to commercial partnership teams, all of whom consider that the end justifies the means. They are tasked with producing the shows and will go to almost any length to ensure their remit is delivered without compromise. The one requirement all these stakeholders share is power and generally they want an uncapped supply right there, right then. If touring is genuinely looking transition to more sustainable power provision, then this sort of approach has to change.

Luke Howell, Founder and Director of Hope Solutions, concurs with this, stating: ‘Energy impacts from touring can amount to up to 1/5th of all carbon emissions or over 60% of non-travel related emissions. Dealing with this is often met with disinterest by those who have the ability to actually instigate change and there is a huge amount of inertia around this issue. This is partly due to a lack of understanding of the topic – fair enough to a point as not everyone is an expert on it – and an overreliance on contractors to sort out the solution for them. Change is coming but slowly and sadly it is still seen as easier by many to adopt business as usual approaches (over spec’d diesel generators) than it is to look at making things more efficient.

It is clear from Powerful Thinking’s work with the Touring Production Group (TPG) in the UK and Touring Professionals Alliance (TPA) in the US, one of the main barriers to sustainable tour power is a reluctance to use mains supplies. Many Production Managers want separated power supplies for show tech, i.e. generators, because they are concerned about the reliability and stability of mains feeds. They also argue that the house feeds are often inadequate for their show peak power requirements. The solution here is simple, consider allocating energy budgets to different stage disciplines based on the available mains power supplies and, where these are found wanting, peak shave them with largescale batteries to avoid having to bring in generators. The battery systems can also support a UPS function, bridging the changeover from mains to generator supplies in the event of grid power outage.

Communicating the tour’s energy reduction objectives to all stakeholders, including crew caterers, tour bus operators, sponsors, artist liaison reps etc, and consulting with them on steps they can take to minimise their energy consumption, is crucial too. Working with them to choose the most energy efficient equipment and, therefore, reducing the overall show power requirements, will open up greater opportunities to use a renewable energy mix. This mix might incorporate renewably certified mains supplies, onsite renewables like venue solar or biomass, high storage capacity battery solutions and back-up generators running on biofuels.

During pre-production, more time and resource should be devoted to power advancing. Apps, such as the ZAP Concepts smart power plan tool, are now available to support production teams in calculating their power and energy requirements and this will ensure on-site generation is matched to actual consumption, resulting in financial savings and quick environmental wins.

Monitoring at distribution level to ensure you understand how power is being used and when peaks are likely to occur, is also invaluable. Instead of sticking rigidly to a single power management plan, this kind of data can be used proactively to make ongoing improvements throughout the tour lifecycle.

I’m going to end with a stark warning for those who think this sounds too involved, when really all they need to do is switch from diesel to biofuel. Surely a biofuel solution makes all the above erroneous and it no longer matters how much energy they are consuming? This is green wash in its worst form, because it sidesteps the main issues around energy efficiency, namely consuming less power and using it more responsibly. Yes, biofuels produce less greenhouse gases (GHGs) but they still emit high levels of localised air pollutants. They are not a renewable energy source, on the contrary they are a low carbon liquid fuel. Neste, the principle global manufacturer of HVO, often refers to its product as ‘renewable diesel,’ but this is simply a marketing term and has no scientific basis.

If you are planning to promote your tour as sustainable because you are using biofuel or hydrogen fuel cells, you are on a hiding to nothing and deserve all the flack you get! These solutions deployed in isolation mean virtually nothing, they have to be part of a broader energy management plan that incorporates better advancing and scheduling, wider use of mains supplies and on-site renewables, battery deployment and crucially, a behavioural step change.”

This guest blog originally appeared in the May 2021 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbowww.vision2025.org.uk

A Case for Transitioning to Battery Power

In this month’s Powerful Thinking blog, Tim Benson makes the case for transitioning to battery power ahead of changes in legislation that will see a rise in fuel cost for event organisers as the government removes their entitlement to use red diesel and rebated biofuels in April 2022. Here Tim discusses the combination of financial, licensing, public health, environmental and technical drivers that are converging to encourage event organisers to switch to battery systems before legislation forces the issue.

“Never has the case for transitioning to battery solutions in place of conventional generators been more compelling. A combination of financial, licensing, public health, environmental and technical drivers are now all converging to make us embrace this technology.

From April 2022, UK event organisers will see a sharp rise in their fuel costs, as the government removes their entitlement to use red diesel and rebated biofuels, resulting in a circa 46p increase per litre. Even if fuel suppliers were able to ‘magically’ maintain something akin to current pricing rates, where gas oil is supplied to end users at 85p/litre, the approximate cost per kWh generated comes in at 25.75p. Compare this to a projected per kWh supply through a high storage capacity battery system of only 14p/kWh, and it’s a financial no-brainer!

Demonstrating proactive planning for low emissions temporary power provision is further becoming necessary to satisfy Local Authority licensing conditions. In a recent meeting with the GLA, their NRMM representative said they were keen to extend guidance to the events sector within London, and many other Local Authorities, including that of my home city Brighton, are adopting a similar stance. Failure to act voluntarily on this could see license applications rejected and the introduction of tougher environmental regulations requiring event spec generators to adhere to Tier V emissions standards, something currently limited to the construction sector. 

For those of us with a conscience, the debate over localised air pollution produced by generators, is yet another key consideration. Switching to biofuels is no silver bullet here, as whilst these go some way towards reducing GHG emissions, they do still produce relatively high levels of tailpipe emissions. There are other alternatives, for example Gas to Liquid (GtL) and Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), but here the reverse is the case, relatively low levels of exhaust emissions but relatively higher levels of Carbon – the clue is in their names ‘gas’!

In 2020 the Government revealed that 75% of their air quality reporting zones still have illegal levels of air pollution, with the Royal College of Physicians attributing 40,000 early deaths annually to this; in particular, levels of Nitrous Oxides (NOx) and Particulate Matters (PM) are on the rise, both of which are core components of the toxic cocktail emitted from generator exhaust systems.

Using battery systems in-line with mains supplies to bolster their output, a process referred to as peak shaving, is also a highly efficient and environmentally sound means of encouraging event organisers to utilise mains supplies. DEFRA figures for 2019 suggest that 1kWh of grid power produces 0.233kg of CO2e, whilst gas oil generates 0.809kg, so the environmental benefits are abundantly clear.

And, of course, the technical and performance cases for using batteries are hugely compelling and now well documented too. To start with, high capacity, three phase inverters are far more suited to dealing with the large load-steps and shock loading scenarios commonly found on stages. Typically, generators have to be over-sized or run in a sync configuration to deal with these kinds of load profiles, but inverters can output huge amounts of power in only a split second in response to the current demands of fixtures like discharge lamps, for example strobes and blinders. Furthermore, unlike some Tier V generator engines, there are no reliability issues with batteries when working at low loads, and the quality of power the pure Sine Wave power that they output is better than that associated with our domestic mains supplies.

The evidence for switching to battery systems is irrefutable then and it’s time to act on it – let’s stand up, be counted and do the right thing before our hand is forced by legislation!”

This guest blog originally appeared in the April 2021 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbowww.vision2025.org.uk

Powerful Thinking Monthly Blog: Pulp Friction! When Waste = Power

This month Powerful Thinking’s Chair, Tim Benson, looks at the huge potential of recycling waste products into electricity and how this process could be a solution to help festivals and events to meet their targets around reducing CO2 emissions from power provision. From leftover oranges in Seville, Spain, generating electricity for the city’s water recycling plant – to cooking oil from the BBC canteen being recycled into biodiesel to power outdoor broadcasts – Tim recounts the success stories and considerations in turning waste to power – and looks at how Glastonbury Festival have led the way by building a 125kW anaerobic digestion plant on their site, which produces energy from cow manure and exports it back into the grid. Read the blog below:

“I recently came across an article in the Guardian (23rd February 2021) that described how Seville was piloting a scheme to turn the city’s leftover oranges into electricity. It described how the municipal water company, Emasesa, was using the 5.7 million kgs of waste fruit from its 48,000 orange trees to generate electricity for one of the city’s water recycling plants. Their head of environmental, Benigno López, reported that in trials 1,000kg of oranges collected from the pavements could produce 50kWh of energy, enough to provide electricity to five homes for one day. He went on to say that, if all the city’s unwanted oranges were recycled, then sufficient energy could be exported back into the grid to power 73,000 homes.

The recycling of waste products into electricity is now commonplace and hardly headline grabbing news in itself. In-vessel anaerobic digestion plants, whereby organic materials such as food and animal waste products are broken down into biogas (methane) to fuel electricity generating turbines, are ubiquitous and often used to subsidise conventional energy generation at both commercial and domestic levels. Indeed, the EU is a world leader in biogas electricity production, with an estimated 10.4GW of electricity produced through anaerobic digestion in 2015 alone. This process further has the added bonus of producing fertiliser as a byproduct.

Waste materials can also be recycled into liquids. In 2013, I was involved in a project for BBC Radio 5Live, where used cooking oil from the BBC canteen was recycled into biodiesel to power broadcast outboard for their Energy Day live OB. More recently, Napier University has pioneered a process that converts waste products from the whisky production process into a biofuel for vehicles. Such was its perceived potential, that a new business was formed, namely Celtic Renewables, that aims to scale this production of biobutanol to commercial levels for use in vehicles in the Scottish homelands.  

You won’t be surprised to learn then that Neste, the leading global supplier of second-generation biofuels, uses waste and residue products as the base components in its HVO renewable diesel; these include used cooking oils, animal fats from food industry waste, vegetable oil processing residues, fish fats and technical corn oils (a residue from ethanol production).

As festivals are urged, and rightly so, to adopt circular economy models, I can’t help but think some are missing a trick here – why not use organic waste as part of their energy mix?

In 2019, Worthy Farm, home to Glastonbury Festival, commissioned Biogest to build a 125kW anaerobic digestion plant on their site, which produces energy from cow manure and exports this back into the grid. Plans for using this biomass solution to supplement the festival’s show power were already being considered, before the untimely intervention of Coronavirus. Yet for established festivals that have long term relationships with their landowners, these kinds of projects could benefit both parties through a jointly funded venture. And of course, less food waste to landfill will reduce the volume of methane emitted into the atmosphere, which can only be a good thing as it has five times the warming potential of CO2e!”

This guest blog originally appeared in our March 2021 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox www.vision2025.org.uk