All posts by Bethan Riach

Plasma Energy – Catching a star in a jar

Bringing science fiction down to Earth this month, Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking, updates us on developments in fusion energy science and how it can play a part in meeting our world’s ever increasing energy requirements, using materials that are carbon-free and that produce highly concentrated energy. Read the full blog:

Any Trekies out there? In particular fans of Discovery? Do you recall the episode where, in order to trap the Red Angel, the crew used the abundant deuterium on Essof IV to create a plasma reactor equivalent to the energy of 12 warp cores? No, I thought not, but why do I ask? Well, fusion energy science could begin to play a part in meeting our world’s ever increasing energy requirements as soon as the 2050s, using materials that are carbon-free and that produce levels of highly concentrated energy.

Fusion energy science is the exploration of how to extract energy from a controlled thermonuclear fusion reaction. In its naturally occurring form, it is essentially the same process that powers our sun and stars through hydrogen fusion. Atoms of Tritium and Deuterium (isotopes of hydrogen, Hydrogen-3 and Hydrogen-2, respectively) unite under extreme pressure and temperature to produce a neutron and a helium isotope. Along with this, an enormous amount of energy is released.

The foundation of nuclear energy is harnessing the power of atoms. Both fission and fusion are nuclear processes by which atoms are altered to create energy, but they differ quite substantially? Simply put, fission is the division of one atom into two, and fusion is the combination of two lighter atoms into a larger one. Nuclear fission takes place when an unstable isotope, typically Uranium-235, is bombarded by neutrons, splitting its nucleus and breaking it down into fission products – three high speed neutrons and a bucket full of energy. Fusion, on the other hand, takes place when two low-mass isotopes, typically isotopes of hydrogen, unite under conditions of extreme pressure and temperature. Fusion is clearly the more sustainable of the two processes, as it generates zero greenhouse gases at point of use, it produces less long-lived radioactive waste and, in the form of hydrogen, has a nearly unlimited fuel supply. Its energy yield is also greater than its fission counterpart, with the Department of Energy (DOE) citing one pick-up truck full of fusion fuel as being equivalent to the energy release of 10 million barrels of oil or 2 million metric tons of coal.

That said, handling plasma, which is defined as the fourth state of matter (a gas in which a sufficient amount of energy is present to enable ions and electrons to coexist), is problematic and costly process, because it needs to take place in a controlled and magnetised environment. However, research towards practical fusion energy generation recently reached a milestone when Japan’s JT-60SA fusion reactor came online. Its superconducting coils create magnetic fields to contain a super-hot cloud of ionized gas (plasma) within a tokamak, a doughnut shaped vacuum vessel, where the hydrogen nuclei fuse and energy is released. However, this four-story high fusion chamber, which super heats plasma to 200 million degrees Celsius for circa 100 seconds, currently consumes more energy than it produces. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), currently under construction in France, will be twice the height and capable of holding 83% more plasma. Lessons learned from the JT-60SA will be applied to ITER, when it comes online in December 2025, with a view to studying plasma stability and how this can increase energy yield.

At present, plasma physics remains largely experimental and theoretical, at least when it comes to generating energy on Earth. Experts believe that, with another 10 or so years R&D into plasma wall and tokamak technologies, plasma fusion could become a viable source of concentrated, clean energy, and one more reliable than its renewable counterparts, as neither location nor weather conditions will have a bearing on energy generation. 

This guest blog originally appeared in the November 2023 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your 

A Quick Guide to Smart Power Planning

A simple five phase plan for planning smarter power provision for events, shared by Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking and Energy & Environmental Consultant at ZAP Concepts & SMART Power: 

S….site design M….monitoring A….advancing R….reporting T….taking risks

Site Design

Consult your power contractor when designing your site to maximise opportunities for improvements in energy efficiency. Look to create power zones fed by generator farms, with smaller sync sets or hybrid systems for overnight base load management and, where possible, group together those suppliers that require 24 hour power. Where grid connections are available, look to use these for those areas of site that will be operational for the longest, for example production compounds, crew catering and site offices.


This must be discussed in the very earliest stages of planning and should be enshrined in the contract with your power supplier. Organisers need to identify specific areas of the site that they want to monitor and discuss with the power team the most suitable hardware for this. Moving forwards, the previous year’s data should be used to set improvement targets for future iterations of the event and any lessons learned should be applied across the wider site.


Accurate power advancing is crucial if onsite generation is to be matched with actual consumption. Your power contractor should undertake a pre-event power audit of all electrical consumers by area, estimating likely peak demands, looking for trends in load profiles and exploring opportunities for the integration of renewables and energy storage systems (ESS).


There’s two key facets to reporting. The first is an analysis and explanation of the monitoring data which should be undertaken by the power contractor and presented to the organisers in a relevant and intelligible format; included here should be recommendations for ongoing improvements. The second, involves the organisers feeding back the monitoring findings to all key stakeholders, with a particular focus on the positives, for example reductions in fuel burn, emissions savings achieved and reductions in onsite generation capacity.

Risk Taking

As an industry, we have to change to limit the impact of live events on localised and global emissions (CO2, CO, NOx and PMs). Change always involves an element of risk, as it’s a new way of doing something. Start your sustainability journey by trialling strategies in low-risk areas of your site. Ensure all your event stakeholders are on onside and that they understand their role in this journey. Choose suppliers and contractors that share your sustainability values and who can contribute in positive ways to your drive for greater energy efficiency and emissions reductions. Finally, be vocal about your successes and share with the wider industry the strategies that have worked for you.

This guest blog originally appeared in the July 2023 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your 

Powerful Thinking’s new look Board reflects the challenges and needs of sector

In his latest blog, Tim Benson announces a new Board for Powerful Thinking, the not-for-profit, think-do tank focused on reducing the environmental impact of powering festivals and outdoor events. New Board members will bring event power sector knowledge from both consumer and supplier perspectives, promoting collaboration for low carbon power provision for festivals and events.

On the consumer side, representatives on the Board are Steve Heap (AFO/EIF), Victoria Chapman (Festival Republic), Kevin Moore (From the Fields) and Kevin Mackay (DF Concerts). Representing suppliers and power professionals the Board has Sean Pearce (Pearce Hire), Dan Pratt (Greener UK), David Amos (Plus Zero), Ian Peniston (Power Logistics) and Nic Forsdike (Gofer Power).

“At a conference recently, that was attended by both event power users and contractors, I realised how ill-informed some of the power companies felt about the ever-growing array of alternatives to diesel generators. Whilst they recognised and wanted to invest in these new technologies and solutions, they expressed huge concern over investing in expensive equipment with a potential extended ROI. Concerns over how and where to deploy the kit were also raised and from some of the conversations I had, it was very clear that a lot of the old myths about sustainable power solutions, for example inverters performing poorly for stage loads, had not yet been debunked.

Powerful Thinking was originally conceived of as a conduit for sharing information on alternatives solutions to diesel generators, but mainly for the user/consumer side of our sector. It did a fantastic job and demand for hybrid and solar fleet grew exponentially. However, somewhere along the line, we forgot about the hirers and automatically assumed that they were all up to speed on the products and how to deploy them – we were clearly very wrong!  

With this in mind, we have a new look Board for Powerful Thinking, that better reflects the needs and challenges of both the users and the hirers. On the consumer side, I am pleased to say that we retain Steve Heap (AFO/EIF), Victoria Chapman (Festival Republic) and Kevin Moore (From the Fields), and on the hirer side, I am delighted to say that Sean Pearce (Pearce Hire) remains with us. Joining us for the first time as an organiser is Kevin Mackay (DF Concerts) with one other still to be confirmed. New hirer and power professional Board members are Dan Pratt (Greener UK), whose expertise on battery solutions will be most welcome, and David Amos (Plus Zero), one of the UK’s leading hydrogen generator suppliers. Also joining us is Ian Peniston (Power Logistics), who continues to lead the charge on fuel reduction solutions for large scale, high profile shows and Nic Forsdike (Gofer Power), an early adopter of many of the sustainable solutions now commonly used in the event sector. Graham Brown, Brown Fox Communications, will be our marketing and communications lead, ably assisted by Georgia Brown. Josie Curtis, Smart Power’s logistics manager (and my personal saviour), will also join us as an administrative assistant.

Looking ahead for 2023, we have begun putting together a new website, which we hope will go live in six weeks. We will also be busy writing a new version of our popular guide Smart Energy for Festivals and Events, with a planned launch in Q1 of 2024. The Sustainable Events Summit, hosted by Vision: 2025 at the Showman’s Show every October, will probably be the first chance our busy Board has to meet in person and Powerful Thinking members will be hosting a panel at the event.

Whether you are a power provider or an end user, we hope Powerful Thinking has something to offer you, so please do get in touch with me at to find out more about how we can assist you, or drop Graham Brown a line at if you want to become a power professional member, with a profile on the new website.

Powerful Thinking will host a panel at the upcoming Vision: 2025 Sustainable Event Summit, Oct 18, 2023, at The Showman’s Show, to explore ways to reduce the costs and carbon through increased efficiency and alternatives for a lower carbon event industry.

This guest blog originally appeared in the May 2023 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your 

Planning for Efficient Power Management – Five Areas to Focus on with Your Power Contractor

Ahead of the summer event season, Powerful Thinking’s Chair, Tim Benson takes us through five key stages to take when co-creating an efficient event power management plan with your event power contractor. Starting with pre-production and gathering advance power information, through site planning, onsite power monitoring and efficiency to post event reporting:

1/ Power Advancing

Make it clear to your power contractor that you require them to engage with all your suppliers in the pre-production phase of the show to accurately assess their power and energy requirements. Let your suppliers know this too, so they can prepare the necessary information in a timely manner. Time and effort spent on this phase of the event can reap huge rewards, both in fuel consumption and emissions reductions.

2/ Site Planning

Involve your power contractor before you finalise your site plans. Ask them for recommendations on creating power zones, i.e. multiple areas supplied from a single generator and/or battery farm. Discuss how you can group site applications and infrastructure that require overnight power and explore integrating hybrid systems.

3/ Monitoring

Monitoring services should be agreed in advance. Discuss with your power contractor what kind of monitoring hardware they are going to supply, e.g. on board generator telemetry to assess fuel efficiency or monitoring at a distribution level for a more in depth evaluation of how and where power is being consumed. Be realistic about what you are going to monitor, both in terms of its management and costs, and target areas where you think you can make quick wins.

4/ Onsite Interventions

Once the show is up and running, there’s still scope for improving efficiency. Where telemetry data is available, this should be constantly reviewed and system configurations tweaked to accommodate unexpected changes in load profiles. Proactive power contractors, who constantly review their own practices, can make ongoing improvements throughout the full lifecycle of the event.

5/ Reporting

Understanding the data supplied by your power contractor is key, so agree prior to the event what metrics you want recorded, e.g. peak power (kW), energy consumption (kWh) and fuel usage by generator (litres). Reports that include trending graphs showing power and energy usage over time are far more helpful and intelligible than tables or spreadsheets of endless figures. Meet with your power contractor post-show and ask them to talk you through this data. Discuss what the key learnings are work together to shape these into improvement strategies for future iterations of your show. 

Photo Credit: We Love Green Festival, France

This guest blog originally appeared in the March 2023 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox 

Tim Benson is Chair & Project Lead for Powerful Thinking, the outdoor events sustainable energy working group, & also sits on the Live Green sustainability working group. He has contributed content for a wide range of industry papers and is the author of the energy chapter in the Show Must Go Report. He is also the Founder/Production Director of Smart Power Ltd & Technical Director at ZAP Concepts UK & Ireland.  

When the Wind Blows; the Terrible Truth About Constraint Payments

In this article Tim Benson, Chair and Project Lead for Powerful Thinking, looks at renewable energy generation in the UK; examining the inefficiency of National Grid storage systems for renewable energy and the grid-balancing policy, involving ‘constraint payments,’ which sees wind farm operators paid to curtail generation when supply exceeds demand.

Tim examines why the government’s net zero strategy, involving the commission of more nuclear power plants, will do nothing to stop ‘constraint payments’ and looks to a more hopeful future with UK companies, Noriker and Zenobe, advancing battery farm technology capable of storing surplus renewable energy for the grid: Plus, how this technology is entering the mobile energy storage market, with products being tailored for the live events sector and other temporary applications.

2022 was a record-breaking year in the UK for renewable energy generation, with an average of 40% of our electricity generated through renewables – hydro 1.8%, solar 4.4%, biomass 5.2% and wind 26.8%. And even though we have not yet reached the end of Q1 for 2023, we are already setting new records. On 10th January, there was a half hour window where UK wind turbines generated 21.6GW of power, which at the time accounted for 50.4% of the UK’s energy mix.

So, you might be surprised to learn that in the first 11 months of 2022, the National Grid paid out £122m to wind farm operators to temporarily deactivate their turbines, with an additional spend of £82m required for December alone. Referred to as ‘constraint payments’, these subsidies are designed to compensate wind farm operators for curtailing their generation at times when supply exceeds demand. This is part of the National Grid’s electricity system operator (NGESO’s) grid balancing strategy, designed to ensure that supply always meets demand. Where demand rises, power may be imported from overseas or power station generation ramped up. However, where supply exceeds demand, the current solution is to reduce the percentage contribution of renewables into the energy mix. In 2022 alone, the costs for implementing NGESO’s grid balancing strategy reached £4.2bn, a good portion of which is passed onto consumers. According to The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), last year this accounted for an additional spend of £150 per UK household.

The crucial question here is why does NGESO’s grid balancing strategy favour fossil fuels and/or nuclear generation over that of renewables? In order to understand this, we need to explore the differences between embedded and distributed generation and how our electrical supplies are distributed nationally.

Embedded generation is defined as the production of electricity, typically from thermal generating power plants where fuel is heated to create steam that drives electricity generating turbines. These power stations are always online and generating power, with the ability to ramp up quickly where demand increases; this is referred to as a demand side response model. Supplies from distributed generation through renewables are more intermittent, in that their generation is always dependent on either the prevailing climate or the time of day. As such, they are not considered predictable or reliable enough to supply our national network with the necessary base load power.

However, it should be noted here that the government’s strategy to reach net zero emissions by 2050, involves the commissioning of more nuclear power plants. Unlike conventional power stations, nuclear plants are commonly run at full capacity and their operators are both reluctant, and often technically unable, to ramp up and down in response to fluctuations in grid requirements. This inflexibility makes them poor partners for a power network that relies on both embedded and distributed generation and will do nothing to curtail constraint payments.     

Embedded generation is also connected directly to our high voltage (HV) transmission network managed by NGESO. This transmission network connects to localised distribution networks, managed by district network operators (DNOs), who then supply power to our homes and businesses. Currently distributed generation only connects at a distribution network level, i.e. generation is at the point of consumption and can only service demand within a DNOs localised distribution network. In the same way that generation exists at the point of consumption, so consumption must occur at the point of generation. Where demand is low and a surplus accrues, there is no scope to redirect this power to other regions, because NGESO’s outdated transmission network cannot physically support this.

Advocates of renewables have long been arguing the case for the integration of battery energy storage systems (BESS) to assist with grid balancing. Battery farms could store any surplus energy until such a time as demand increases again, therefore reducing our dependence on fossil or nuclear power station supplies at times of peak demand. A number of UK based companies, including Noriker and Zenobe are making excellent progress in this sector. Indeed, Zenobe has just achieved a remarkable first with their commissioning of a 100MW/107MWh battery energy storage system in Capenhurst, Chester. This facility is hailed as the largest battery project directly connected to the transmission grid anywhere in Europe and is able to deliver reactive power services. Zenobe’s ambition is to reduce the amount of curtailment of renewable energy, particularly wind, in the Mersey region of north-west England where it is located, as well as reducing the amount of gas-fired generation needed to balance the supply and demand of electricity. Interestingly, both Noriker and Zenobe have also entered the mobile energy storage market, with products and control systems being tailored for event and other temporary applications. This kind of diversification is essential if we are genuinely looking to decarbonise generation in the live events sector, so keep an eye out for them both!

This guest blog originally appeared in the February 2023 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox 

Tim Benson is Chair & Project Lead for Powerful Thinking, the outdoor events sustainable energy working group, & also sits on the Live Green sustainability working group. He has contributed content for a wide range of industry papers and is the author of the energy chapter in the Show Must Go Report. He is also the Founder/Production Director of Smart Power Ltd & Technical Director at ZAP Concepts UK & Ireland.  

Event Power Efficiency 101: The Power Management Hierarchy

Chair of Powerful Thinking, Tim Benson, kicks off the year with a blog reminding event power suppliers to prioritise prevention, efficiency and reductions in 2023 power plans. With new power solutions coming to the market, from large-scale mobile battery systems to hydrogen combustion generators, Tim highlights the continuing need for energy efficiency and reduction of our dependence on liquid fuels, using the ‘Power Management Hierarchy’ devised by ZAP Concepts and Hope Solutions, as a framework for best practice:

“Happy New Year to all our Vision2025 and Powerful Thinking friends! 2023 is set to be another monster of a year for our sector, with significant one-off shows in the UK including Eurovision and the Coronation, so let’s start off on the right foot with our energy planning and management.

With so many different solutions available to us, from large scale mobile battery systems to hydrogen combustion generators, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of what is really important, i.e., being more energy efficient and reducing our dependence on liquid fuels.

With this in mind, a good starting point is to refer to the Power Management Hierarchy, devised by ZAP Concepts and Hope Solutions. 

This hierarchy is intended to help event organisers and their power contractors prioritise the most environmentally sustainable interventions available to them and can be applied to an entire event site or to individual power zones. It further relates to all phases of the event lifecycle from build to break.

Reducing Demand

We need to consider both how much energy we are using (expressed in kilowatts / kW and described as ‘the load’) and how long we use it for (expressed in hours); collectively these metrics make up the common unit of electrical consumption known as the kilowatt-hour (kWh) – which is often referred to as demand. Improving onsite energy efficiency means putting in place strategies that both reduce the load and cut the hours; these might include sourcing more energy efficient equipment, swapping out electrical catering appliances for those that run on alternative fuels like gas, introducing inline timers that switch circuits on and off, the introduction of photovoltaic sensors that activate circuit contactors when light levels change, and using the start/stop timer function on generator control panels.

Understanding Load Profiles

Load profiles are patterns in energy usage, typically viewed across a 24-hour period or longer. Most commonly at events we see asymmetric load profiles: periods of
high usage sandwiched between periods of low consumption, which are known as base loads. Where a power contractor has previous experience of an event, they will be better placed to understand the nuances of the site load profile and plan accordingly for base load management; common strategies include hybrid power generators that manage periods of low load from the energy stored in their batteries, syncing smaller diesel generators with higher capacity ones and designing site layout so that applications that require 24 hour power are grouped in clusters.

Power Advancing

Collecting accurate information on demand and load profiles in the advancing stages can be challenging, but remains absolutely crucial if efficiency is to be improved. It requires production teams, their contractors and suppliers to provide comprehensive equipment inventories and data on energy consumption, together with switch on/off schedules for the full lifecycle of the event. More often than not, what is actually supplied is a list of electrical connection requirements that bears little resemblance to the actual load. Inaccurate and incomplete advancing information is one of the chief causes of inefficiencies. It leads to the oversizing of generators because specifications are based on peak loads, and wasted opportunities for introducing alternatives power solutions for base load management. Processes such as the ZAP Concept’s Smart Power Plan, that inventory site-wide electrical consumers, can be helpful in matching energy production to actual demand, allowing generator downsizing and a reduction of fuel consumed.

So, here’s to whatever 2023 chooses to throw at us and wishing you all ‘bonne chance’ for the coming year – it is going to be brutal!”

This guest blog originally appeared in the January 2023 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox 

Greening Green Park for the Platinum Jubilee

In his guest blog, Chair of Powerful Thinking, Tim Benson, shares how the collaboration between SMART Power, Power Logistics and the BBC Events Team on power provision for the Platinum Jubilee supported a saving of over £10,500.00 in fuel spend. 

Tim shares how the teams worked together to specify a power management system capable of dealing with the Jubilee’s variable demand over a protracted period, whilst meeting the BBC’s sustainability aspirations. Learn how they dealt with periods of low energy demand efficiently and employed battery power to achieve the impressive reduction in fuel use:

“2022 marked Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, with an extended May bank holiday weekend of concerts outside of Buckingham Palace. Billed as the ‘Platinum Party at the Palace’, it featured an unusually diverse range of artists, including Diana Ross, Queen, Elbow, Sirs Elton John & Rod Stewart, Duran Duran and George Ezra.

The Production HQ was located in a pop-up compound in Green Park, which remained operative for a month. It comprised of all the usual facilities; accreditation and security cabins, copious production offices, field kitchens for crew and talent, dining tents, workshops, dressing rooms, green room tents and toilets. Whilst some of these were in use from day one, many of them would not come into their own until much closer to the show day. This presented a unique challenge – how to specify a power management system that could deal with such variable demand over a protracted period, whilst meeting the BBC’s lofty sustainability aspirations.

The incumbent power contractor, Power Logistics, had already negotiated a keen per litre price for HVO, which was a great start. They also introduced a single power node to the compound, comprising of four 100kVA generators configured in load demand. For those of you not familiar with this sync configuration, the primary generator (referred to as the priority 1 set) runs the whole time; when it reaches a pre-programmed load threshold, typically between 60 – 80% of its total generation capacity, it auto-starts the next unit in the chain (the priority 2 set) and then the next and so on. Conversely, as the demand drops, the priority 4, 3 and 2 units automatically ramp off, ultimately leaving just the primary unit running. This is the most economical sync configuration available for diesel gensets, yet it fails to address the age-old problem of those periods where demand is well under the total generation capacity of the primary engine, in this case between 60 – 80kW.

So, under the direction of the BBC Events Team and Steve Nolan (Production Manager), began a collaboration between SMART Power and Power Logistics to optimise the production compound power. The plan was to introduce a large-scale battery system (250kVA / 280kWh) in lieu of the primary 1 generator. SMART Power undertook a power audit and mapped out the load profile. Based on their

estimates, they proposed a reverse hybrid configuration for the battery system, whereby the unit managed the load and the generators were only called upon when the batteries needed recharging. SMART Power concluded that this could reduce generator runtimes by up to 35%.

The trial was a great success, with an average battery system versus generator runtime ratio of 57.7%: 42.3%. During week two of the build and towards the end of the de-rig, this rose to 69% : 31%. In total, the battery unit exported 19,380kWh over the 16.5 days it was operational and achieved an aggregated fuel saving of circa 5,400L, which monetized equates to over £10,500.00 reduction in fuel spend.  The site load varied between 30 – 229kW peak and, when charging, the system always ensured that the generators targeted the load and only used their surplus for topping up the lithium cells.

This project also yielded some important learnings. Whilst attention had been paid to the generator ramp on rates for recharging (circa 1kW / second), the ramp off was far too quick and needed to be adjusted remotely to protect the alternators.

These sorts of collaborations are too few and far between for my liking and should be encouraged more by event organisers seeking to capitalise on the ever-growing range of clean-tech power solutions available to them.”

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

Generator redundancy: Optimise your back up plan

Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking, demystifies electrical jargon essential to understand when seeking sustainable solutions for back up power systems.

Tim suggests that event organisers have the responsibility to push back against both brands and suppliers who prefer unnecessarily oversized synchronized load-sharing generators instead of exploring battery storage solutions or more complex but efficient generator configurations. Could redefining what counts as critical to event operations be key? Overspecced generator back up might be vital for medical, police & fire HQs but perhaps now is the time to put fuel efficiency ahead of uncalled for fuel waste for brand activations or audience convenience? Read the full blog:

“As many of you know, event electrical project managers love to throw a good acronym or a scary bit of jargon into a conversation! With this in mind, you may have heard us use terms like ‘N+1’ and ‘redundancy’ before, but what the devil are we actually talking about?

Both the above examples refer to providing a back-up power system, in the event that the primary supply fails. ‘N+1’ simply means that if you required ‘N’ items of equipment for something to work, you would have one additional spare item; if any one item of equipment breaks down, then everything can still work as intended. Similarly, ‘redundancy’ is defined as the inclusion of extra components which are not strictly necessary to functioning, in case of failure in other components.

All sounds very sensible really, as losing power at an event can have serious consequences, particularly for critical onsite services such as medical triage centres, emergency service compounds (medical, police & fire HQs), lighting for emergency egress, event control centres and their wifi provision. To this end, most power contractors will provide synchronized (sync) load sharing generators, whereby the generators run in parallel and share the total load. Both generators need to be sized such that, if one fails, the other has the capacity to take on the full load. As I’m sure you know, for a generator to run efficiently, it needs to work at +60% of its total generation capacity, but in a load share scenario this can never happen, making it a very unsustainable solution. Furthermore, very few companies supply sync sets under 100kVA, which means that for relatively low wattage critical services, the generators will be oversized, reducing the ratio of fuel consumed to kWhs generated and producing higher levels of emissions.  

Other solutions are available to ensure an uninterrupted power supply, for instance; backing-up the generator with a high storage battery system or using a pair of generators with a small battery system and a second generator connected through an AMF panel. The AMF here stands for Automatic Mains Failure, and the panel is a stand-alone unit that calls on the second generator if the primary unit fails. However, generators need to run through their warm-up sequence before outputting power, so a small battery is required here to bridge the gap between the first unit failing and the second unit starting up, reaching its required 1500rpm engine speed and outputting at a frequency of 50Hz. Notably, this kind of system was successfully employed at the Nightingale temporary hospital during the first Covid pandemic.  

Whilst both the above solutions are now more widely available, most power contractors will opt for the conventional sync load sharing solution. For critical onsite supplies, we have already established that this is a necessary evil, but where do we draw the line between a power outage being deemed critical versus it simply being inconvenient? The risk averse amongst our ranks will want to back-up virtually everything from stages to food courts, brand activations to open air cinemas, for fear of making audiences irate and possibly even asking for a refund, heaven forbid! Now don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that losing power in some circumstances can trigger reactions from the audience that can lead to serious crowd management issues, and that building in redundancy in these circumstances is prudent.

Similarly, losing stage power can have serious consequences for audio, LX and video equipment, not to mention upsetting show timecode systems, which underpin major stadium concerts. However, event organisers seriously need to take the lead here and reign in this demand for conventional redundancy where power outages cause no major impact, aside from a small dose of inconvenience and a tad of embarrassment. They should speak with their power contractor about alternative solutions and ask them to ensure that regular diagnostic checks are made on all the onsite gensets, so that early interventions can be made before outages occur.

I’ll finish with a quick anecdote that, hopefully, sums up the folly of the demand for non-critical redundancy. Whilst working on a festival in Ireland, I was asked to challenge the request from an agency on behalf of a certain global electronics consumer brand for a pair of sync 150kVAs for an activation that purported to demonstrate the low energy credentials of their LED lighting products. They insisted that this was the only generator configuration that would work, despite their peak load being under 15kW. The response was, ‘it’s what the brand wants so it’s what they should get’. My response… is actually unprintable, sorry!”

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

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.

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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 

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