Talking about our generator

  • ‘Pee power’ – yes, it’s a thing
  • Glastonbury’s solar set-up

Music! Mud! Unnecessary juggling! Yes, it’s festival season. But while thousands of us gear up for long weekends of fun times, spare a thought for what it takes to make a festival happen. So how do you power up the experience of a lifetime?

 

Energy is one of the biggest costs for a festival and also makes up around 70% of its carbon footprint. Happily, though, our festivals are getting greener. New ways of generating power are being trialled at several UK events – from ‘pee power’, where urine is fed into fuel cells to create electricity – to bike-generated ‘pedal power’.

 

The greening of Glastonbury

One festival that has flown the green flag for years is Glastonbury. In 2015, the event used hybrid generators that integrated wind, solar, diesel, grid and battery storage. It also had an array of 200 solar panels installed on the roof of Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis’s Worthy Farm. These produce 45,000 kilowatt hours of free electricity every year for use on the farm and during the festivals.

“Generating our electricity using solar PV panels is fantastic and couldn’t get any better. It produces no smell or dirt, there are no wages to pay for producing it and we get all this wonderful free electricity," said Eavis.

Claire Buckley, environmental sustainability director at Julie’s Bicycle, a charity that works with festivals to reduce their environmental impact, namechecks other events with strong eco credentials.

“There have been some great initiatives from festivals such as Shambala, Latitude, Leeds and Reading. In 2014, about 240 UK festivals were using renewable energy,” she says.

 

Power for the people

Wilderness Festival operations manager, Sean McNally, reveals some of the challenges around powering up a big event.

“The power installation period for Wilderness takes two weeks with a team of up to 15 people, all working around the clock,” he says.

“You have such a small window of opportunity to do a huge power installation – we have to consider traders, cookery schools, bars and pop-up restaurants. For a medium-sized festival like Wilderness, with capacity for 30,000 people, you need roughly 3.6 MW of power over the weekend.”

For comparison, this is enough to power a small town, such as Yorkshire’s Hebden Bridge, Conwy in Wales or Wadhurst in East Sussex.

When it comes to green power, though, McNally points out that it’s not as straightforward as you might think.

“We’ve used hydrogen fuel generators, but by the time these generators get to our site they’re not that green because they’ve been flown in from Holland. The generators are then delivered on diesel-fuelled trucks. We’ve been focusing on cutting waste and transferring our black bin bags to white bin bags. We’re also working with Loowatt to install toilets that use biodegradable lining and require no water.”

So when you’re being buffeted by waves of rib-shaking sound from a speaker stack this summer, give silent thanks to the team of energy experts who made it happen. Oh, and if you’ve contributed to ‘pee power’ while there, give yourself a pat on the back too. After washing your hands, of course.

 

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