Can the event industry harness wind power as a clean energy solution?

Following the latest announcement from the Prime Minister that wind power will provide enough energy for all UK homes by 2030 –  Tim Benson, chair of Powerful Thinking, explores the possibility of events using this clean energy source as a viable option too, and looks at new tech for harnessing wind for temporary power needs – including the Gem Tower (pictured).

“Boris Johnson pledged at the Conservative party conference that offshore wind farms will produce enough energy to power every UK home by 2030. This is something of a u-turn considering his comment in 2013 that; ”wind farms failed to pull the skin off a rice pudding,” – clearly nanny was not a good cook!! 

However, his assertion is supported by hard data from the National Grid: as of 06/10/20 wind power accounted for 18.5% of the UK energy mix, generating 6.39GW and consolidating its position as the second largest contributer to UK mains energy behind gas.

Despite UK weather conditions being ideal for harnessing wind power, it is rarely deployed for events. This is arguably because very few pop up commercial turbine solutions exist and their installation costs are often prohibitive. They also consume energy to operate, referred to as a parasitic load, reducing their overall utility. At the domestic end of the market, they only generate between 0.6 – 1.3kW, making them a non-starter for most event applications. Alternative wind harnessing solutions, including kites tethered to electro-mechanical winches, have been explored but are not really scaleable and come with a raft of health and safety concerns.  

However, GEM-tower , an initiative led by PowerVIBES and Eindhoven University of Technology, may have just bucked this trend. It is a mobile solution comprising of a 3kW wind turbine and coloured LSC solar panels mounted on a 21m fold-out mast, with integrated battery storage. Whilst this eye catching tower will not power your main stage or food trader runs, it is certainly helping promote the role of renewables in the event energy mix as it tours European festivals and shows. 

Perhaps most importantly though, we can learn some boader lessons from GEM-tower’s hybrid configuration. For me, its significance lies as an exemplar of  hybrid technology, a power system that harnesses dual renewable energy sources and integrates these into a single power solution.

It is not uncommon for commercial ports to combine wind turbines with solar PV because this increases the opportunity for energy generation across a 24-hour period, so why can’t innovators in event power adopt a similar strategy?” Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking