Relying solely on fossil fuels is not a sustainable long-term solution to energy supply. Look for alternatives to power your event and mimic developments in zero emissions solutions to not only power your event but to demonstrate what is possible.
The current reality is that green energy isn’t the solution to 100% of the world’s energy needs, but maximising every alternative energy and zero emissions option is surely the best and most immediate action we can take. Scientific advancements in solar technology, energy efficiency, hydrogen fuel cells and yet undiscovered solutions will bring us closer to a sustainable and stable energy future.
Use Sustainable BioFuels in Generators
Biofuels are made from raw materials such as oilseeds, wheat and sugar, resulting in ethanol (alcohol) and biodiesel. The feedstock can be seen as carbon neutral as they release the same amount of carbon dioxide as they take out during the recent growth cycle as opposed to unlocking ancient carbon through burning fossil fuels.
However the use of fertilizers and other chemicals to grow fuel crops such as corn/maize, the transport and energy needed to convert to biofuels does bring them back from being carbon neutral.
There is much campaigning against using arable land for production of crops for fuel not food. It’s believed that only so much land can be set aside to grow biofuels before food supplies and biodiversity are threatened. Also the insatiable demand for fuel crops can push up grain prices. There has been a strong backlash against biofuel crops grown in Malaysia and Indonesia where Palm Oil plantations and the consequential destruction of forests is happening on a grand scale.
However, it can be seen that the current crop (pardon the pun) of biofuels is a transition solution. They are a bridge to get to where we need to be without cutting us off from our existing technology.
Waste Vegetable Oil Biodiesel: WVO Biodiesel is in ready supply in most western countries, and at a competitive price. WVO Biodiesel is not only a renewable resource, thus eliminating fossil fuel use; it has already been used once before. It is the ultimate in up-cycling – closing the loop by taking a waste product and transforming it into a fuel with so many excellent benefits.
Does it work OK?: Little has to be done to a standard generator except for a tank clean and filter changes, to run on biodiesel. There is no reduction in performance and no reliability problems with using generators fuelled by biodiesel – assuming high grade ISO/EN 14214 is used. This is the international standard that sets the minimum requirements for biodiesel.
To avoid filter changes and tank cleans, generator suppliers need to switch and commit their fleet or part of it to permanently running on biodiesel. If your supplier resists your request seek out a supplier with biodiesel kit available and an eye on the future.
- Broker partnerships between WVO biodiesel suppliers and your generator hire company.
Pure Plant Oil: Rather than converting oil produced from crops into biodiesel, it’s possible to use straight oil. Pure Plant Oil is the term and there are mobile generators which run on this fuel. Conventional diesel kit can also be converted to run on pure plant oil. The benefit of using this over biodiesel is less energy is used its manufacture
Large chemical processing facilities and associated environmental and financial overheads are not needed. The use of pure plant oil comes with the same concerns for all cropped biofuels – that land is being used for fuel not food.
The pure plant oil business is taking this head on and sustainably sourcing its fuel feedstock. One of the major things to look for is that no palm oil is used by your pure plant oil supplier and that any rapeseed or soya seed oil is sourced from certified sustainable producers.
Zero Emissions Energy
Rather than simply replacing mineral with waste vegetable oil biodiesel or other sustainable fuels, it’s possible to do without diesel generators at all. This is where we move to truly green energy sources for your event such as solar, wind, pedal, and hydrogen fuel cell.
Solar power providers are emerging who provide mobile kit specifically for the events industry. Mobile solar panels pop up out of trailers, or swing out from the sides of trucks. Some are stand-alone units, others form part of the staging infrastructure and display
They come with their own staging, PA, lighting, backline, etc and is often better as they know exactly how much power everything uses rather than having a separate company supply sound and lights.
If you have a one day show, solar power is a hassle free option. If you are running a multi day show, things will become a little trickier. You need the sun to shine so the batteries are topped up ready for the next day. If the sun doesn’t shine, then you need a back up – such as a WVO biodiesel fuelled generator on standby to recharge batteries.
Demonstrating what is possible to power using the sun is a big benefit. If you’ve powered your show resulting in no emissions and your audience leaves inspired then you’ve won.
Wind Power is another alternative. It’s obviously going to work best if you have a windy area on your site. It’s worth investigating whether there are boutique providers of wind power in your region and match them with small users of electricity.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell
The commercial viability of power supplied by a Hydrogen Fuel Cell generator is increasing quickly. A hydrogen fuel cell is an efficient form of power supply with no emissions and only water vapour from the exhaust. It’s a clean and efficient alternative to diesel generators. A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that converts hydrogen and oxygen into water, and produces electricity in the process. A battery is also an electrochemical device. It has the chemicals stored inside it and converts those chemicals to electricity, but the charge eventually dies out. With a fuel cell, the chemicals are constantly flowing into the cell so it never runs flat.
As long as there’s a flow of chemicals into the cell, out comes the electricity. The technology is being developed to power motor vehicles, however it has also been set up to provide electricity. Keep your eyes out for this option becoming available.
Pedal Power is something that’s making a bit of a splash, especially in the festival environment. Operators are emerging that have bike powered set ups. The audience, or dedicated volunteers, sit on stationary bikes and pedal their hearts out to produce power. Ten bikes daisy-chained can power a PA big enough for around 200 people.
There are also novelty setups where the pedalling is directly attached to a sound system using vinyl records. I have also seen a pedal powered washing machine. My personal favourite is a pedal powered Juice Bar, where a mechanical set-up attaches bikes, through a series of cogs and wheels, to food blenders. This juice stall has staff pedalling which powers the blenders.