Latitude, Leeds & Reading

Festival Republic: Energy Management at Reading, Leeds and Latitude Festivals.

Festival Republic is a leading UK music events producer with a portfolio of 19 music festivals across Europe, including Download, Latitude, V Festival, Reading, Leeds and Electric Picnic Festivals. More than half a million people attend the festivals they own and co-produce each year.

Festival Republic are committed to understanding and reducing the environmental impact of their festivals but this case study focuses on the challenges and successes of their commitment to reducing CO2 emissions from energy use at Leeds, Reading and Latitude.

Their sustainability policy includes using waste vegetable oil biodiesel to power the festivals’ generators. Between 2010 and 2011 they increased the amount of biodiesel used at Leeds from 18.5% to 24.5%, and at Reading from 12.5% to 18.2% in 2012. This commitment continues despite there being limited biodiesel supply in parts of the country, unpredictable price fluctuations, and a higher cost for sustainable biodiesel in comparison to regular diesel. They now aim for biofuel to make up 15% of the total fuel burned on site, in line with the Julies Bicycle benchmark, and are investigating into fuel efficiency measures to reduce the amount of fuel they use in the first instance.

Festival Republic requires their energy contractor to monitor generators and provide data on the actual fuel consumption after the festival. Based on the data collected, Festival Republic is working to reduce the size and/or number of generators to better match their energy needs and be more efficient about their fuel use. In 2015 Leeds and Latitude Festival were able to reduce the overall size of the generators compared to 2014 and this was achieved even though there was an increase in the festivals infrastructure. 2016 is the fourth year of data they have collected and are working closely with their power suppliers to see if this can be used to make further energy efficiency savings.

In 2015 Festival Republic explored alternative and new energy technologies such as hybrid generators and solar power. They also hired solar powered batteries that can be linked to generators to reduce the generator run-time. After a trial at Latitude, one of the power contractors has invested in a number of these batteries tailored to their technical needs to add to their own fleet, showing that Festival Republic’s dedication is indirectly supporting fuel efficiency in the broader events industry. Combining the two different technologies has been challenging, requiring training for the engineers in the field and dedication from the teams. The initiative is not yet financially viable, but Festival Republic continues to invest to support this kind of knowledge exchange between solar power and generator companies.

Festival Republic works with their contractors to reduce energy demand through specifying more energy efficient technologies; for example, in 2012, Colour Sound Experiment, one of their lighting and visuals rental companies, invested in 1.5 km of LED festoon lighting in response to demand from Reading Festival. The Festival Republic technical production teams work with their audio, video, and sound companies to improve communication around power specs and energy requirements to encourage broader industry conversation about ‘what’s actually needed’ at festivals.

At Latitude in 2015, the audience was engaged around the topic of energy and sustainability through a partnership with De Montfort University’s ‘Face your Elephant’ project. The audience were also physically acquainted with energy awareness through cycle-powered phone charging stations to promote renewable energy in a creative way.

Since 2009, Leeds and Reading festivals have reduced their total carbon emissions significantly, by more than 20% per audience day. In 2015, Latitude and Leeds were awarded a Creative Industry Green rating of four stars and Reading has achieved three stars since 2013. 2016 was the first year in which Download and V Festival were assessed and at the time of writing this case study the results are awaited.


The Electric Hotel

Charging ahead! A mini, mobile phone charging power station.

Brainchild of artist Sebastian Fleiter it is a shining example of audience engagement in renewable energy provision. It offers an interactive service for charging phones in the form of pedal power for a free, quick, and fun energy supply at festivals. The brightly polished 1960s chrome camper van also has solar cells, wind turbines and a pump storage hydro power unit which allows it to run 400 mobile phone charging points with lockers that can be availed of for a small fee, allowing them to charge over 3000 phones a day.

Technical challenges in the first year of this innovative and ambitious non-profit business included the underestimation of the requirements for mobile phone charging. They found that standards for phones are not as common as you might think, and there are many different socket types.

To overcome this difficulty around half of all charging points can be used with any model, while the other half have adapters for mobile phones with unique sockets. This service has ended up being a pragmatic idea for providing renewable electricity to festival goers, originating from an idea incorporating the worlds of art and technology.
Currently, new power generators are being developed for The Electric Hotel, and they have received funding from the European Union EFRE programme, as well as various awards for their endeavours.

The Electric Hotel not only provides an affordable and necessary renewable energy powered service, but simultaneously informs and engages festival goers in alternative energy procurement.

Electric Pedals

Pedal power energy, environmentalism, engagement, education and art.

Electric pedals came about as a solution to engaging people in an understanding and appreciation of resources and energy consumption. The simplicity of the idea is what first captured Colin Tonks’ imagination: you pedal, it generates electricity! The realisation of how effective this simple process of cause and effect is what got them started. What makes them different to many other pedal powered renewable energy alternatives at outdoor events is that people can bring their own bikes along and it can be attached to the generator there and then. They see this interactive approach to energy provision at festivals as a way to engage people, including children, in thinking about our energy supply and the alternatives to fossil fuels that are available.

Electric Pedals describe themselves as a group of artists, physicists, educationalists & environmentalists using bicycles to educate, helping to build community spirit while giving a little hug to the planet. They have seen year on year growth in interest in the sustainable service they supply. In recent years their cycle powered cinema has seen high demand from local councils for various creative productions and educational activities centred on sustainable energy. They also branched out with the development of an innovative pedal powered rucksack cinema that is bringing educational messages to some of the poorest and most remote parts of the world.

In the future they hope to teach people more broadly how to reduce waste in all its forms. They want to share skills and equip people with the know-how they need to live sustainably.

Bike-powered: interactive and innovative energy provider

Reaction Sound System

Bike-powered: interactive and innovative energy provider

Reaction Sound System (RSS) use audience participation to power small to medium-sized stages with specially designed bike generators. The audience can see how much power the pedalled bikes have created through responsive meters that show how much energy is available in the storage system.

RSS was developed as part of an on-going project to create a small and efficient sound system that is louder for less energy, can travel lightly and that can harness the muscle-power and enthusiasm of the audience to power the show. What began as a curio act at festivals is now a reliable and sustainable sound system that engages the audience with event sustainability by involving them in the practicalities of powering a stage.

RSS now appears at 8 or more large events each year, including the main reggae stage at Eden Festival, a live & DJ stage at Alchemy, the Cocoon stage at Shambala and at many other smaller festivals and events.

RSS began in the summer of 2009 when they trialled 3 bikes, two ‘tyre and roller’ systems and one ‘belt drive’ system to create power for their sound system. They found the belt drive system to be more efficient and with the help of funding in 2010 they built 5 more bikes, each with generators rated at up to 300 watts. RSS invested in finding the most efficient speaker system and custom-built US designed line array, horn loaded speakers (designed to make sound hold its proportion over distances). These efficiency measures meant that the energy from 6 cyclists could provide quality sound for audiences of up to 2000, in tents as long as 60 meters. With 3 adults pedalling hard the speakers can provide enough good quality sound to cater for around 200 people.

Sound systems are customarily measured in power, under the assumption that a larger energy capacity equates to a louder rig. However this assumes all rigs run at equal efficiency and doesn’t take Sound Pressure Level (SPL) or quality into account. This makes the RSS hard to compare to normal battery or diesel-generator powered rigs but, to put it’s efficiency in context, a standard small PA sound system needs 16 watts to match the output RSS can achieve from just 1watt!  Although not required, a second stream of power can come from backup batteries, putting an extra 300 watts in to help the cyclists which is useful for engineers during during the headline performances or brief lulls and sound checks.

If everyone gets off the bikes at once it takes around 3 minutes for the 20 segment LED power meter to go from full to empty. RSS occasionally let the charge level drop so that the music stops completely in order to demonstrate the audiences’ vital role in the show. From empty, it takes about 1 minute of cycling to get the system operational again and they often use audio samples from well-known performers and a compère to encourage people on the bikes.

RSS are on a mission to evolve sustainably. They have built two new bikes for the summer of 2016 meaning they now have 8 bikes and additional capacity for energy and volume. They have also added a compact modern solar-powered Lithium-Ion battery bank, which they will use to power stage lights, processors and DJ kit, so that more of the pedal power is directly available for powering the speakers.

Many thanks to Reaction Sound System for providing the information for this case study.