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Lessons from Our Solar Powered Festival



INFLUENCER: As we enter festival season, hasan & partners' Anu Niemonen offers some advice on how to approach powering and organising events differently

Lessons from Our Solar Powered Festival

Last month we succeeded in pulling off one of the world’s biggest live events powered solely by natural and sustainable energy. Sunplugged was a concert in Helsinki that started with a brief from our client, Väre; to prove the effectiveness of solar energy and more than that – do something positive in the battle against inaction around climate change. 

Climate change is the biggest threat of our times. You just need to look at the growing momentum behind movements like Extinction Rebellion and the School Strikes to see the urgency young people in particular feel around demanding action and change to help save our planet.  

The Europe 2020 strategy has a target of reaching 20% energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020 and at least 27% by 2030 - across heating and cooling, transport and electricity sectors. 

And while it’s great to have those targets from the 2020 strategy, these issues need to be addressed now, not in the next 20 years. We need action, and action requires effort from everyone: companies, politicians, citizens and of course, the energy industry.  

This industry plays a huge role whether you are talking about coal, nuclear power, electric cars or ‘green energy’. There is a huge appetite to learn about more sustainable forms of power but still some scepticism about their effectiveness and reliability. Particularly in the winter months, and particularly in Nordic countries where in some southern regions where daylight lasts only six hours and in the northern regions where the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon.  

We knew from the start that challenging these misconceptions couldn’t be done with traditional advertising. We had to give people an experience and more than that, show how powerful solar energy can be.  

What better way to do that than with a festival? 

We worked with a Finnish inventor to build solar panels and set up 20 energy-generating bicycles by the stage, which kept the electricity (and music) flowing. People were jumping in the saddles to peddle away while watching the bands.  

We entertained 600 people with five hours of non-stop music and lighting, all fuelled by renewable energy.  

Event organisers are slowly waking up to global demands for cleaner, more ecological alternatives to productions - this year Glastonbury announced it will ban the sale of single-use plastic bottles for the first time. And Burning Man banned VIP campers Humano the Tribe for not having enough respect for their surrounding environment.  

The sun provides a tremendous resource for generating clean and sustainable electricity but awareness about how to install and utilise it at scale for big events is scarily low.  

It’s so important to work with people that understand this technology (and provide additional solutions like bikes to support energy flow) in order to make things run seamlessly.    

Our biggest challenge with Sunplugged was calculating how much energy the concert would use and how much we could generate from bikes and solar power... it would have been a serious backfire if while we were trying to prove the effectiveness of this energy and all the lights went out! 

Do the work to understand the maximum amount of energy your event uses, and from that calculate what you need to power it sustainably.  

We erred on the side of caution and ended up using much less energy than we thought – even having some left over to store. And that’s the beauty of solar power – you can store it for later use. So for events worrying about the weather on the day, it’s not going to be a problem (at least, not for the energy. Perhaps for the festival-goers!) 

Powering events differently takes a completely new approach and I hope that we start seeing more live events taking on a Sunplugged approach.  

Everyone on the production side needs to feel a part of it and buy into your goal – from sound, to lighting to artists and management. All artists will have various technical/stage riders – these all need to be calculated into consumption. It’s not just a plug and play kind of solution and doing it for the first time requires a lot more work than your standard events.  

But it’s worth it.   

We put the work in because we know that if we work together to help people reduce their energy consumption AND help them save money, in our small way we are helping to save the planet. 

Anu Niemonen is a creative at Hasan & Partners

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hasan & partners, Fri, 03 May 2019 13:38:05 GMT