Common questions and myths

Q. Are Biofuels bad for the environment

A. Biofuels, especially palm oil and jatropha, are often cultivated on deforested land, displacing agriculture andindigenous people. The emissions from cutting down the original forest can exceed the emissions saved by displacing the use of a fossil fuel. It’s a complex issue and one of trade offs, but 100% waste vegetable oil (WVO) or 100% domestic biodiesel such as oilseed rape are widely considered to be ‘green’ fuels. WVO is used cooking oil which has been prepared for use in generators and it is generally sourced locally. Using it for power keeps it out of the waste stream (including sewers where it can cause blockages) and has far less associated emissions when compared to diesel. As a rule of thumb, biofuels are preferable to fossil fuels, especially whensourced

Q: Isn’t renewable power unreliable?

A: No. Most newer systems have battery back-ups storing energy, and continue to produce power in overcast conditions. Many providers come with a reserve in place. Some also say that as there are no moving parts it is actually more reliable. However, it should be noted that there is more of a need to work out power requirements, in detail, in advance to match supply and demand.

Q: Do renewable solutions cost more?

A: Sometimes they do, but sometimes they don’t, just like any other power company decision. In many cases where a large amount of power is required (for example above 45 kVA), there may not be a viable solution or costs may be prohibitive. But for smaller requirements, you may be able to reduce the amount you need to power in the first place by working efficiently, and use cost-effective renewable solutions. Feedback from festivals suggests that it is often forgotten that there are no fuel bills post-event for solar and wind systems. There are many examples at small to medium scale events of renewable and hybrid approaches which can deliver cost savings. Savings will be dictated by circumstance, so it is very important to maximise planning and explore all available options.

Q: Isn’t it the case that we always need a margin of error in the capacity of generators for the unexpected?

A: Yes, but the Powerful Thinking research this summer suggests that current margins are often excessive.

Q. Can you power entire events on renewable and low carbon solutions?

A. There are many examples of small to medium festivals (under a capacity of 20,000 people) being entirely powered by renewable and WVO solutions. Examples include Croissant Neuf, London Green Fair, Shambala, The Green Gathering and Sunrise Celebration. Renewable technologies are generally considered not yet capable of wholly powering larger events and stages for very large audiences but a hybrid approach is still both easy and widely in use.

Q. Does Festoon lighting need to remain on during the day to manage loads on generators?

A. Only if those generators are also supplying other requirements, or if a load needs to be maintained on the generator. If a generator is dedicated to festoon lighting it can be switched off. Some companies now have automatic sensors which switch off site lighting, festoon runs and tower lights when daylight emerges.

Q. Do amps and stage lights need to remain on overnight?

A. Some companies say this is necessary in order to keep equipment warm and avoid condensation,
but others say their equipment does not require this. It can depend on the equipment. Either way, it’s worth considering a secondary power source so a main generator can be switched off.

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