Introducing ZAP Concepts Smart Power Plan tools

In this month’s blog Chair of Powerful Thinking, Tim Benson, shares sustainable event energy consultant Zap Concepts’ new Smart Power Plan Tool. 

“Following 12 months of development, ZAP Concepts are pleased to announce the launch of their Smart Power Plan Tool. Part funded through an Innovate UK grant, the tool is designed to help event organisers to take control of their power advancing & ensure onsite generation is matched to actual demand.

Designed to calculate in advance how much power your production requires, the tool will enable event organisers to employ alternatives to conventional diesel generators, therefore, improving efficiency, minimising diesel consumption & reducing CO2e & tailpipe emissions by up to 80%.

This fully automated system can generate your robust power plan within as little as 72 hours & follows a four-stage process:

  1. Power inventory: a link to our comprehensive fixture database is sent to all suppliers who then enter their full equipment inventories
  2. Review of site plan: here we look into the feasibility of using any existing mains power infrastructure, together with exploring opportunities for creating temporary power nodes to service multiple areas of the site
  3. Analysis of power requirements: instead of focusing on just peak power consumption (kW), which is so often the root cause of inefficiencies, the tool also calculates energy used over time (kWh): this ensures that energy storage systems (green batteries) fed from mains or renewables can accurately be specified in place of diesel generators
  4. Creation of your bespoke Smart Power Plan with recommendations on how to employ the most sustainable energy mix, which you then pass onto your chosen power contractor

The tool can easily be adapted to largescale productions & is available under license to both event organisers & power contractors. The pricing plan is simple & is based on audience capacities (up to 10,000 / 10,000 to 25,000 / 25,000 to 40,000 / + 40,000) per event project.

Where productions employ new or bespoke fixtures that do not appear in the equipment database, these can be manually entered into the system. Going forward, users can easily refer to previous iterations of their power plans & simply adapt these to reflect changes in audience capacities, production specs & site layouts.

Additional consultancy services are further available, including energy monitoring services & onsite support in partnership with your power contractor & in-house production teams.

To find out more or to sign up to one of our online demonstrations, drop us a line at

Tim Benson’s blog was first published in the Vision: 2025 February 2021 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox HERE.


Blog: Finding the right tower light for the job

For January’s blog Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking explores the world of tower lights – with tips for selecting the right light for your job and features to look out for, Tim factors in budgets and location requirements to help pinpoint the most fuel efficient model for your needs.

This month I want to explore the world of tower lights. Is choosing the right model an exact science or are they all broadly the same? Certainly, manufacturers like Trime have invested considerable time & money in expanding their product portfolio to include diesel, hybrid, solar & all electric models, so there is clearly some appetite for alternatives to diesel units.

Below I have set out some handy hints for selecting the right tower light for your job, together with a list of features to look out for:   

A good starting point is to consider what size area you are trying to light. Is it a carpark, a BOH compound or an entrance gate? Most new models come with either four or six adjustable LED heads (lamps) operating at between 100 – 150W, although the Atlas Copco HILIGHT H6+ boasts four 350W lamps. Both the lamp configuration & the mast height (typically 8.5 – 9m) will affect the maximum area the tower light can illuminate. Units with four lamps will typically light an area of between 2,000 – 2,400sqm, whilst those with six will cover up to 3,800sqm. Where you are lighting large open areas, this increased coverage can reduce the number of units required, so it is worth checking coverage in the product specs.

Another useful thing to consider is where the tower lights are located on site. For large sites with multiple units, it can be time consuming having to manually operate each one, so some form of automation is a helpful function. Most new units come with a dusk-till-dawn sensor, which automatically turns the lamps on and off, subject to ambient lighting levels. Other models use a more basic timer function; whilst some can even be remotely controlled through the aux. remote start input and an App.

Cost of hire will always be an important consideration but it is also prudent to consider fuel efficiency. Things have come a long way since the advent of the first iteration of the VT1 with its metal halide heads (lamps) & its thirsty, noisy engine. The Trime EX-ECO unit is probably the most economical diesel model on the market, consuming only 0.47L/hour. With a 110L internal tank, it offers 230 hours runtime before needing to be refuelled. It further has the option of running directly off an AC feed.

Hybrid models, which run off battery, are an even more efficient solution & were certainly my first choice until recently. The Trime and BGG hybrids offer between 11 – 13 hours autonomy before the diesel engine automatically starts and runs for about three hours to recharge the lithium cells. For a 100% renewable solution, Trime & Prolectric offer a range of solar units with integrated PV panels that they say work all year round. To extend runtimes, some of the solar units offer a dimming option too. Both the hybrid and solar models have the added advantage of being silent running & produce zero tailpipe emissions during operating hours, making them ideal for campsites or shows in locations where overnight noise bleed is an issue.

However, as is often the case, there is a trade off between the more efficient electric models & their diesel counterparts. Firstly, the footprint of the Trime X-Solar tower light (3723 x 1784 x 2640mm / weight 1,523kg) means that only four can be loaded per truck, compared to 13 of the EX-ECO diesel units (2320 x 1380 x 2420mm / weight 920kg). This means higher emissions levels and increased costs associated with logistics. However, for long-term projects this may be less of an issue, as the environmental and fuel savings over time will mitigate these. Another issue worth raising here is that the hybrid & solar models do not include a 16A cee-form out, so cannot be used in generator mode, which from my point of view is quite a limiting factor. However, conversely some manufacturers of diesel units are downsizing the alternators in a bid to improve efficiency, the knock-on effect of which is that you cannot pull a full 16A from them, which can be frustrating. Finally, with many solar units, the masts have to be manually operated and they can be tricky to position because of their weight.

Clearly there is a lot to consider when choosing your optimum tower light. My suggestion is to weigh up the pros cons & not be dazzled by speculative claims of emissions busting, work the figures out for yourself! And to finish, for tower light hires, I wholeheartedly recommend both Illumin8 & MHM

Tim Benson’s blog first appeared in the Vision: 2025 January 2021 newsletter.Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox HERE.


Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking, reflects on the event industry’s “annus horribilis” and looks at how new technology can help set higher energy efficiency targets for the next season:

“What promised to be such a great event season for so many, has turned into the event industry’s annus horribilis. No one has been immune, be they established events, artists, suppliers, contractors and freelancers alike – we have all been left to contemplate our commercial mortality, or should I say viability Rishi Sunak?

As is so often the case, our supply chain was once again called upon to install temporary infrastructure in dark times. It was not that long ago that event professionals turned their hand to building refugee camps, this year instead we have been assisting with pop up hospitals, test centres and morgues. Essential work of this sort has certainly benefited the major plant hire companies, with integrated contracts awarded for cabins, tower lights, power generation and fuel management. Sunbelt Rentals, in particular, have benefitted from this. With something like 50 regional test sites and a further 25 satellite ones, they and their cross-hire partners have certainly been kept busy and their efforts are to be commended.

However, for many event power specialists 2020 has not been so rosy. Many of us been forced to diversify, or should I say ‘pivot’, entering new markets where opportunities to innovate and lead the charge for sustainable power management have been few and far between.

Nevertheless, I like to think that this fallow year has afforded us time for reflection, to consider the things that we are doing well whilst, at the same time, also providing opportunities to contemplate how we can improve and ameliorate our service offering. Of course, this will only be evident once we see government event restrictions relaxed, but I remain positive.

So, should we be setting loftier energy sustainability targets for future seasons – definitely! With the advent of new high storage capacity battery systems and opportunities for tapping into EV charging stations literally just round the corner, we can finally start planning for something close to the Amsterdam blueprint that will see city centre events generator free.

From all of us at Powerful Thinking, we wish you a happy Christmas and we hope to see you in field in the New Year!”

The Powerful Thinking blog first appears in the Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up for the latest news on how the Live Events community is responding to the climate crisis HERE.


In this month’s Powerful Thinking blog, steering group Chair Tim Benson explores Hydrogen Fuel Cell (HFC) technology as the latest developments from pilot projects in the EU and UK bring the reality of temporary power provision for events closer to the UK market. 

“Hydrogen has long been touted as a promising alternative to fossil fuels, since at point of use the only emissions are water, oxygen and heat. Unlike other zero carbon fuels such as wind and solar, hydrogen is classed as a dispatchable electricity source, that is to say output can be adjusted to meet changes in demand. By contrast wind and solar are defined as intermittent/non-dispatchable sources, as they only produce energy under certain conditions. 

A hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) generates electricity through a highly efficient and silent running electro-chemical process. Even though each individual cell produces relatively low current and voltage levels, they can easily be stacked in series or parallel to adapt to different load requirements, and when paired with batteries recharge times are staggeringly quick.

The European EVERYWH2ERE HFC pilot project is now in the final stages of commissioning four 25kW and 100kW units, and the team are requesting expressions of interest for onsite trials from EU festivals and construction projects:

In the UK, start-ups such as Hydrologiq and PlusZero are busy seeking funding for their own pilot projects, whilst also looking to partner with commercial suppliers of green hydrogen. However, the most interesting UK event related deployment to date was the introduction of a 150kW system installed for EV charging at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed. This collaboration between Siemens and GeoPura provided a zero emissions charging solution for the electric super-cars chosen to make the iconic hill climb.

Some off the shelf HFC products already exist, most notably the BOC HYMERA hydrogen fuel cell generator and their Ecolite-TH2 hydrogen powered LED tower light. The former is being promoted as an alternative to small petrol gensets, but with only 175W peak output its applications are limited. The tower light has undergone a number of iterations and seems to be gaining some traction in the railway maintenance and construction markets, claiming up to 700 hours runtime. 

With so many positives, it beggars the question why hasn’t HFC technology gained greater market penetration? The obvious retort would be safety concerns, but in reality these can be mitigated. The answer lies in the hydrogen supply chain, both in terms of the energy and cost required to manufacture and store it. Steam-methane reformation of natural gas, which is still ubiquitously employed to produce commercial hydrogen, is a highly energy intensive process requiring temperatures of 700°C to 1,000°C for production. Where water electrolysis is used, for the hydrogen to be classed as ‘green’, then the energy supply has to come from renewable sources. 

Aran Bates of Hydrologiq cites £2/kg – £4/kg as the target price for green hydrogen but concedes that to achieve this demand needs to increase significantly. He goes onto say: “One of the biggest things on my mind at the moment is that, even though diesel subsidies are going in the UK in 2022, hydrogen could be cost comparative with 2019 prices if the demand went to up to current levels of diesel use. Hence the only way for green alternatives to come to the market is if diesel doesn’t continue to be unfairly subsidised”.

The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) initiative is doing sterling work to exploit the potential of hydrogen as an energy carrier and fuel cells as energy converters, but I believe we are still some way off from seeing these kinds of solutions widely employed for temporary power applications.” Tim Benson, Chair of Powerful Thinking

To receive Tim’s blog direct to your inbox along with event sustainability news from across the industry sign up to the Vision: 2025 newsletter.

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  

Carnival Network explore low carbon power & new tech to reduce demand

The newly formed Environmentally Responsible Carnival Network have invited Powerful Thinking to advise their search for alternative solutions to diesel generators. Tim Benson, Chair of the Powerful Thinking working group joined the New Carnival Company organised networking meeting in August 2020 to discuss the process of introducing energy monitoring and exploring the feasibility of battery solutions, whilst also looking at low emissions alternatives to diesel.

In this blog Tim discusses the challenges and possible solutions for energy efficient carnivals and also explores the available tech that can help reduces energy demand in the first place with a review of Minirigs ultra efficient sound systems, and Swiss start up, Belair Technology’s battery powered amplifier solutions.

Last month I was invited to participate in an online meeting of the new Environmentally Responsible Carnival Network hosted by the New Carnival Company CIC to discuss how they could introduce energy efficiency measures at their events. From listening to membership, it soon became apparent that carnivals present their own very unique set of challenges when planning for power – no two sound systems are the same, they are generally built with volume in mind rather than efficiency, there is little to no hard data on expected load profiles, and weight and footprint of power management systems is key. However, what soon became clear was that there is a very real appetite amongst the carnival community for finding alternative solutions to diesel generators. To this end, Powerful Thinking will be working with them to introduce energy monitoring and to explore the feasibility of introducing battery solutions for some applications, whilst also looking at low emissions alternatives to diesel.

Fundamental to improving energy efficiency is, of course, reducing demand in the first place. Cue Minirig whose Bristol based team are specialists in designing and fabricating bespoke ultra energy efficient sound systems. They were responsible for fitting out the Arcadia Bug with a 6,000W 12V system that was capable of delivering sufficient audio output with all of Minirig’s renowned fidelity, yet with only a fraction of the power requirements of more conventional 230V systems.

Belair Technology, a Swiss start up, has also been successfully beta-testing their battery powered amplifier solutions with Void and Function-1 speaker cabs. Their hot swappable and modular 2kWh power banks, that feature up-cycled lithium batteries, a 500W inverter system to power DJ outboard and the capability to be both smart-networked with Nissan EVs and trickle charged from solar PV, offer a 100% integrated off-grid PA solution.

If one positive thing has emerged from the current Covid-19 crises, it is that we have had a chance to pause & explore new possibilities for greater technological convergence. As a result, we are beginning to see integrated solutions that combine energy autonomy with high-end performance, which can only be a positive step when reimagining the future of sustainable events.

This blog was first shown in the Vision:2025 September 2020 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox using the form in the footer of

All-electric Telehandlers and advances in lithium battery technology

This month trials of the first all electric telehandler began at one of the HS2 construction sites. The Flannery Plant Hire Eco-telehandler purports to have up to a 10-hour runtime between charges, making it a low impact alternative to its diesel counterparts. Is this the future for site plant or just an elephant in the room? 

In order for battery technology to surplant its antiquated diesel counterparts, be that access equipment, lifting plant or generators, then the price of lithium batteries needs to come down drastically. Cue Teague Egan of EnergyX, who is developing a nanoparticle filter that can extract 90% of lithium from salt deposit supplies (current extraction processes only yields 30%). This, coupled with Elon Musk’s rumoured plans for a UK based battery ‘Gigafactory’, may be just the catalyst we are looking for to drive greater market penetration for battery technologies in the UK events market.

Greater electrification of event sites will require better mains feeds with high capacity battery storage systems for balancing out the demand peaks. Whilst this will not happen overnight, it will inevitably drive further R&D into onsite energy storage systems, which are the Holy Grail if we are to achieve our emissions reductions targets and improve air quality for event audiences and crews alike.  

Smarter Power Tools and Management lead to 40% cut in energy use

Our monthly power blog and case study is brought to you by Tim Benson, Director at SMART Power and Powerful Thinking Steering Group Member. This month he explains how with the right power tools (supplied by IDE systems), monitoring and management SMART power helped a Netflix production achieved a 40% cut in onsite energy use and used a power battery inverter system positioned inline with the generator to manage 40-50% of the compound’s overall power requirement.

IDE System’s Erica power management tool, which can be incorporated into their distribution boards, provides per socket monitoring with remote access for end users via a dashboard for real-time monitoring. It enables site and power managers to monitor voltage, peak currents and, most helpfully, load versus actual consumption on a socket by socket level. The data packets refresh every five seconds, ensuring an accurate picture of the site’s load profile, with Cloud storage for back up.

SMART Power were invited to assist with energy monitoring for a Netflix production earlier this year. They installed IDE’s distribution boxes at the production’s location base compound for 48 hours to assess the energy usage for all 14 of the location base trailers – production offices, make up, wardrobe, honeywagons and the actors’ dressings rooms.

Following an analysis of the peak load data, SMART Power were able to demonstrate that the main facilities generator could be downsized by 40%. 

However, of greater importance was the load profile monitoring data (power x runtime), which allowed SMART Power to demonstrate how a battery inverter system positioned inline with the generator could manage 40-50% of the compound’s overall power requirements.

Wayne Woodhead, Managing Director of IDE Systems, comments; “With this level of data it’s possible to identify individual end user’s power consumption and patterns in their usage, enabling power managers to reliably and efficiently optimise their power generation.”

Fossil Fuel subsidies to be removed for Event Sector

In the UK Budget on 11th March it was announced that subsidies for red diesel will be scrapped for the entertainment sector, amongst others. The Government has however committed to consulting with affected sectors over the summer. This will impact most outdoor events that use generators and onsite plant with fuel cost rises of up to 50%. 

The industry is already on a journey toward smarter energy planning, better fuel efficiency and using alternative fuels such as HVO: between 2016 and 2019 Powerful Thinking’s Industry Green survey recorded an increase in events who are monitoring their fuel use, from 53% to 80%, monitoring generator loads rose from 44% in 2016 to 68% in 2019, and the number of events working with suppliers to increase energy efficiency and reduce fuel usage has doubled from 27% in 2016 to 56% in 2019.

With 2 years to adapt to this change, and the knowledge that typically outdoor events can reduce fuel consumption by 40% by working with their suppliers to make simple changes such as more detailed planning, there is an opportunity to reduce the financial impact of this change and take the steps needed to reduce fossil fuel emissions. 

Alternative fuels such as HVO and HOV are increasingly available and are ‘drop-in key solutions’. Other technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen generators, hybrid generators and battery technology are also becoming more available and cost-effective in the events market.

To learn more about alternative technologies and managing energy efficiently to reduce fuel costs and emissions, you can use Powerful Thinking’s free-to-access Energy Knowledge Hub – Europe’s leading knowledge base on sustainable energy at outdoor events.

Beyond Covid-19: Let’s Build a Better New Normal

As a community of festivals, suppliers and industry organisations we are facing an unprecedented challenge. This is not the last significant challenge we will face, as the wider environmental crisis evolves. Let’s make this hardship count, build a better ‘new normal’ based on collaboration, resilience, and respect for life and the ecosystems that support us.

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, we acknowledge the hardship this is causing for individuals and the catastrophic effects the crisis is having on the outdoor event sector, along with societies nationally and globally. As a community of festivals, suppliers and industry organisations, the Vision:2025 members are facing an unprecedented challenge.

We are currently in a state of flux as our situation changes daily and weekly. Many of us are currently in isolation; some are still working, trying our best to protect ourselves, the health system and keep minds busy.

This is not the last significant challenge we will face, as the wider environmental crisis is still evolving. Where we are able, let’s use this unprecedented ‘pivot’ moment in history to be as prepared as we can be to tackle the next crisis, by supporting each other, communicating, learning from the resources we have created together and sharing information. Let’s make this hardship count, build a better new normal, based on collaboration, resilience, and respect for life and the ecosystems that support us.

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Stay Home. Stay in touch.