Sunrise becomes first UK music festival to use renewable energy smart grid

Tom Lawson

The festival has enlisted the help of researchers to pioneer a technology that could revolutionise the way outdoor events are powered

Sunrise is set to become the first festival in the UK to be powered by a smart grid.

The grid creates energy through solar panels and vegetable oil generators, using battery units to regulate power as and when it is needed. Organisers hope the system will significantly reduce the festival’s energy consumption and believe it could revolutionise the way festivals are powered in future.

“Battery units will be trickle-fed solar energy from panels across the site,” said Sunrise co-director Dan Hurring. When the power, monitored by a software system, drops, or more is needed, small generators powered by vegetable oil will kick in to recharge the batteries. “A standard festival system has to be constantly ready to provide for peaks of power, so fuel is massively wasted. This new system is very exciting and could prove trendsetting within the festival scene,” added Hurring.

The grid is part of a continued partnership with the Green Festival Alliance and forms a collaboration between energy companies including Greenheart Energy, Firefly Solar and RPM Fuels.

Researchers from De Montfort University will be monitoring the grid during the festival to test its effectiveness and see how much energy can be saved with such a system.

“We will be analysing the data from Sunrise and other festivals to then produce detailed guidance on how festivals could reduce their electricity consumption, reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and also save money,” said Professor Paul Fleming, director of the Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development at De Montfort. “Smart grids have the potential to be widely used at outdoor events and the extensive monitoring at Sunrise will help identify the potential.”

Sustainability is a major part of the Sunrise ethos and the festival already takes steps to reduce its environmental impact, including running a car-share scheme and providing reusable pint mugs.

Sunrise Another World takes place from 30 May until 2 June 2013 at Thoulstone Park, Wiltshire.

Photo title: Part of the energy garden at Sunrise festival

Photo credit: © Mike Grenville

  • Jon

    I would find this ‘survey’ to be far more useful if the cost of getting the solar panels, windmills etc TO and FROM the event was factored in. It is a nonsense to suggest a solar stage (for example) is better for the environment than a traditional stage using a diesel-powered generator if it costs more to get the equipment to the event than the traditional stage costs to run.

    For example, one Solar Stage I know of needs two huge trucks to get the equipment to the site. These trucks do 15 miles per gallon of Diesel. So if the event is 100 miles away, that’s 16.6 gallons of Diesel to get the equipment there and back again. This is far more than a traditional stage would use in Diesel all weekend.

    And no mention here of the immense carbon footprint of getting the materials to make solar panels out of the ground. Looks good, but is actually total rubbish.

  • Prue

    There is more than one way to be sustainable and Sunrise is not. Just because they use some green tech doesn’t make them green.. Last year they couldn’t cope with the rain, one year they had to close the festie site cuz of rain, there is using solar and then there is making a festival that can be enjoyed by all that doesn’t fall at the first hurdle.. Sunrise isn’t one of them.

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  • A.Vasconcelos

    Take a look what we do at Boom Festival
    All the best to Sunrise, lets keep the good work

  • Andy

    In the case of sunrise, the total cost of the renewable site power solution is less than the diesel equivalent, this total cost also takes into account the cost of transportation of the equipment. This means the renewable option has given the festival a net financial saving overall. Logistically, the power, including all bio diesel generators and fuel as well as solar generators is transported on a single articulated lorry which would be needed to transport any traditional power set up so no extra vehicles are required. The additional weight of the batteries is offset by the lower volume of fuel that is required. Overall there will be a net carbon emission saving as compared to running diesel generators site-wide.

    Additional benefits also include improved air quality and reduced noise pollution. There are a range of different renewable power solutions available and some are more advanced, compact and efficient than others and indeed carbon emissions from transportation should always be taken into account but over time more solar and hybrid solutions will become available around the country if festivals like Sunrise create the demand which in turn will mean that renewable equipment will be available to festival organizers more locally.

    Of course there is a carbon cost in extraction of the materials to make solar panels as there is in extracting any material including iron ore to make steel used in making diesel engines or extracting oil to make diesel fuel. Its worth noting however that solar panels should still be producing electricity 25 years after they were manufactured, arguably longer than the lifetime of most diesel engines.

    Its also worth noting that the Powerful Thinking Campaign is an independent think tank set up to advise the festival and events industry on how to reduce carbon emissions from energy generation on site. Those festival organizers looking for clear independent advice please visit the Powerful Thinking website at:

    where you can download a free guide to help understand power and how to reduce emissions.

    For more information on solar, hybrid and biodiesel power generation you can also see:

  • LGF2

    Jon, it’s interesting that you base your comments on complete assumptions. You may find that the event organisers have indeed factored all of this in. I think Sunrise and Boomtown, as well as other festivals are making great choices in seeking alternatives.

  • LGF2

    Apologies, Boom Festival not Boomtown x

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