*Sustainability is more important now than ever before. But are off-grid and solar energy solutions yet viable for live events?*Can my Festival Run Entirely on Solar Energy?
Yes. Probably. With a little help and commitment.
(This article has been written in partnership with our sister company SolCell)
As relative experts in off-grid renewable power systems for temporary events, we have a lot of interesting discussions with people looking to take their festival or event to the next level of sustainability and carbon reduction.
- ‘Can I use solar panels instead of diesel generators?’
- ‘How many solar panels do I need to power a 2,000 capacity festival?’
- ‘What is the most sustainable way to provide site power to my festival?’
These are just some of the questions we get. Alas, as with a lot of technical event-related queries, they are simple questions with not-so-simple answers. However, what we can do here is provide a basic insight to solar energy for events and what you need to consider. The biggest key concepts to grasp are below:
Key concept 1. You are probably using too much electricity on your site.
This is a big one and the first thing you need to understand. Many of the solutions we provide for people focus first on reducing the amount of energy you need - this will reduce your carbon footprint regardless of your power source, and in the event we do install solar egnerators, can hugeley increase efficiency and therefore decrease the infrastructure needed on site. Things to consider:
- Type and quantity of site lighting needed
- Traders and how much power they are allocated (for example, if everyone upgraded their fridge to a slightly more modern unit, the cumulative effects can be great)
- Electric versus gas cooking and heating
- Limiting times when showers can be used
- How far you are running cables from one power source
These are some basic ones, and the techniques suggested will vary depending on the scale and type of event.
Key Concept 2. You need to decide which compromises you can make.
We recently consulted on a project where the client was 100% committed to going totally off-grid. This is admirable, and possibly one of the first teams we’ve worked with that have been this committed. Except they also 'needed' the power to be 100% reliable and on-tap. Unfortunately, the nature of solar is that sometimes, the sun isn’t there. There are ways around this such as large-scale battery storage on site, but this was too expensive. Or, we could have hooked up an emergency power source such as a generator (yuck, hydrocarbons) or mains grid supply (none available, and no willingness from the landowner to install one). The project ultimately unraveled because the client was unwilling to compromise on either cost, resilience, or the ‘off-gridness’ (no that isn’t a word) of the system.
Key Concept 3. The sun is not consistent.
Sounds obvious. While you can switch a generator on and pump smoke into the sky to power your event at the touch of a button or turn of a key, solar solutions are more nuanced. The sun is up during the day, and not during the night. What’s more, the yield of solar panels (that’s how much electricity each one makes) varies depending on location of the sun in the sky and how clear a day it is. We have designed ways around this using battery storage systems, and will often over-specifiy the solution to ensure there is some in-built allowance for variance. But crucially, it is important to understand that just because you have 20kW of generation capacity, you will not be generating 20kW unless the conditions are *juuuust* right. So over-spec or go back to concept 1 and reduce that power draw!
The above are the main things we discuss with any renewable energy client before we begin designing their system. But as with anything, advice and solutions will vary from event to event. We’re always happy to provide a free basic consultancy service if you’re thinking about using solar power for your next event.