How to cut the power used by your festival or outdoor event

With concern growing about sustainability and environmental impact and most festivals facing financial challenges, there’s one area where you can make a huge difference, and that’s in your event’s power consumption. With power almost always among the five largest production costs for a festival, festivals are in an unique position to make and showcase carbon reduction initiatives and to introduce huge audiences to new, energy efficient technologies.

The main culprit in almost all cases of excessive power consumption is the use of diesel generators at loads of below 25% capacity. If your generator is far too big, it may cost more than you needed to spend, and regularly consume more fuel than you could be using to produce the same amount of power using a smaller generator. You can also shorten the life of your generator by running it at a very low load. Diesel engines should be run at least 60-75% of maximum to avoid damage. Check how much power you use at peak times for each venue (this might require some research from you, but will almost certainly be worth it – many events could save around 40% of their outlay on power by making efficiency changes). Designate a generator appropriate to each load, and consider where generators could be shared. In many cases you can make significant savings by also running a different generator overnight when power consumption is likely to be lower.

Don’t automatically assume you’ll need generators at all. For many events, particularly those on smaller sites in urban centres, the most economical option is often the national grid. Look for a ‘green’ energy tarrif supplying power from renewable sources. Large venues may have their own arrangements – Worthy Farm, for example, now has its own permanent solar energy generator which can replace some generators during the festival and supplies local homes through the rest of the year.If you do need generators, consider switching to a variable load generator, or to cleaner biofuels with suitable generators. Or make the leap to solar or wind generators, which can be more expensive initially but harness free power.

Many smaller ‘green’ stages choose pedal power, which has the added advantage of involving the audience, encouraging them to consider the power being used. For art installations, or to make smoothies or charge mobile phones, it’s more fun if the power is visibly dependent on the pedalling, either mechanically or via a dynamo, but serous systems for stages include batteries for a consistent supply. Other punter-powered options include dancing or walking generators, though these provide interactive fun rather than a viable alternative.
A hybrid system often makes the most sense. A system which stores the power from solar panels, for example, supplemented by a greener generator as necessary, can provide consistent power from batteries, avoiding the wastage of the standard diesel set up.
Not sure where to start? Powerful Thinking has a brilliant online tool to help you assess your current usage and spot areas for improvement. Find it at

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