We live in a time where it’s possible to attend a music festival every month of the year, almost anywhere around the world. With the recent boom of electronic music and evolving technology, music festivals have started popping up left and right. Some are gigantic and mainstream like Ultra and Electric Daisy Carnival, some promote a different type of vibe in remote locations such as Lucidity Fest or Lightning In A Bottle (LIB), while others are small and just starting to take root in their local communities. Regardless of size or the intention of the festival, they all have something in common beyond music and that commonality is the need for power.
Without power, there would be no sound and no lights, and these festivals would simply cease to exist. Most of us have probably have never given any thought as to how these festivals are powered, we just hear the music, see the lights and we essentially assume that it all happens magically. The truth is that all of these festivals are powered in some way by diesel-fueled generators, even the festivals that are in the big cities with the ability to utilize shore power. So why should we be concerned? These generators are similar to gas lawn mowers, when running for 60 minutes they emit a similar amount of pollution as eight new cars driving at 55mph. Each of these generators emits about 420 pounds of carbon dioxide each year and if the average festival uses about 15 generators, that equates to thousands of pounds of unnecessary pollution, just from music festivals every year. The funny thing with this is that a lot of music festivals pride themselves on promoting sustainability, whether it be by leaving no trace, recycling programs, providing free water, or creating a culture that encourages an alternative way of thinking. But when it comes down to how they power the festival, no one seems to be interested in finding alternative and sustainable ways to do so.
Enter Jeff Murrell, founder of the Electronic Music Alliance and owner of Focus Entertainment. Murell has been producing events for over fifteen years and has the sustainable solution for the future of music festivals. Noting the hypocrisy of sustainability with music festivals, “We solarize our homes, use alternative energy cars, but why isn’t our partying or extracurricular stuff off the grid? It’s pretty backwards, especially when the music festival culture consists of creative thinkers and harbors an open minded culture,” Murrell is hoping to change the current wasteful approach to powering today’s music festivals with specially crafted solar powered generators. Eight years in the works, Murrell has developed a solar-powered infrastructure that is proven to be more reliable than the current fuel-burning generators. Murrell’s infrastructure has successfully powered over 20 music festivals, the largest of which was Lucidity Festival’s main stage. Despite this initial success, Murrell has found that most festivals are unwilling to accept this alternative or even consider trying it out. This resistance comes from a lack of education about alternative energies, especially solar power. There is this notion that solar energy doesn’t have the same quality or power as conventional energies or that there is a lack of abundance. To that Murrell says “the sun will always rise“.
Using his fifteen years of event production experience, Murrell developed his solar power infrastructure specifically tailored for music festival needs. The rental cost of his system is also comparable to that of the current power systems used. The solar power generators Murrell uses are hybrids. When the solar power reaches 40% capacity, vegetable oil fueled back up generator kicks in and helps the main generators charge back up. When they reach 80% capacity, the back up generator shuts off automatically without skipping a beat and ends up reducing emissions by 99%. Murrell’s back up generator only runs when needed and any excess energy gets stored back into the solar batteries, whereas traditional diesel generators constantly run regardless if power is needed. At Lucidity festival, Murrell’s system powered a full Funktion One sound system for over forty hours only burned 7 gallons of bio-diesel (vegetable oil) in the process. The hub of the power infrastructure is a trailer that not only powers the productions, but also serves as an artist green room with several cool features. The entire inside of the trailer is made of bamboo wood and sports a 5.1 surround sound system and flat screen that can be connected to the stage feed. It comes fully equipped with draft taps for beer or Kombucha, it also sports a phone charging station that can support up to 1,000 phones, WiFi hot spot and a pop up DJ booth.
Murell’s system is cool, sustainable, powerful, and exactly what music festivals need for the future. Murrell states “this is my creative expression of what the future should look like and by the time I retire, I’m hoping to have replaced over one million traditional generators to make this industry as sustainable as possible. It’s not about what’s efficient right here, right now. It’s about what’s better for us and the environment in the long run. For example if you drink a Red Bull, it may be efficient in the short term because you feel energized immediately, but is it really good for your body in the long run?”
It’s time for music festivals to start thinking about their sustainable futures. The technology is available and the sun is shining. So what are we waiting for?
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