Music festivals have become the preeminent way for music lovers to catch potentially dozens of their favorite acts all in one place. Fans travel for hundreds, even thousands of miles to see big name acts like Paul McCartney, Kanye West and the reunited Guns N’ Roses in remote locations like Coachella, CA and Manchester, TN.
As thousands of concert-goers gather to party and enjoy the music they love on a warm, sunny day, the festivals themselves are also moving towards taking advantage of the abundant sun—through the use of solar power. For many festival organizers, the appeal of solar is threefold: the value derived from the generated power, the diminished environmental impact, and the emotional resonance with concertgoers.
High Musical Standards, Low Environmental Impact
One of the biggest music festivals to embrace solar power as a way to keep the music going is Bonnaroo—a festival started in 2002 that has grown over the years to feature acts like The Police, Radiohead and the aforementioned McCartney and West.
In 2013, the festival installed permanent solar paneling to help power their stages and PA systems. The panels generate nearly 20 percent of the festival’s total power. To finance the cost of the 196-panel array that is intended to be used yearly, the concert organizers merely added on an additional $1 to the ticket price and solicited optional donations.
“Bonnaroo is setting an example for both high musical standards and low environmental impact,” said Kevin Kilkelly, president of the company that installed the panels. “Fans sent out a heartening message about the American public’s embrace of solar power.”
Increased Efficiency—and “No Drama”
Concert organizers are simply recognizing the rapid evolution of solar technology—leading to reduced costs and increased efficiency of the paneling. And this doesn’t just apply to festivals taking place in the same location every year: For both Outside Lands and the long-running Warped Tour touring festivals, portable solar panels are a key source of generated power as well.
“The panels have gotten more efficient,” says Kevin Lyman, founder of Warped Tour. “And the surface space and the batteries have become much more compatible and last longer.”
“There’s just no drama with this stuff,” says Tim Allyn, owner of Sustainability is Designed, a company that has worked with Warped Tour’s solar stages. Allyn in particular praises the reliability and durability of the paneling. “The solar panels show up. You plug ’em into an inverter. You back the system up with a generator.”
What the Fans are Calling for
With the vast majority of concertgoers in their early 20s, the use of solar and other “green” energy sources is a particularly appealing prospect. This has added value to the concerts by appealing to the fans’ ideals. And nowhere is this idealism more on display than Off The Grid, Melbourne, Australia’s first completely solar-powered music festival.
“It’s the responsibility of all festivals to be as environmentally sustainable as possible, especially if they’re going to have any longevity,” said Katy, a concertgoer at Off The Grid while speaking to Noisey. “It would be nice if we could have low-impact festivals as the new standard.”
Solar panels as a source of energy generation appears to be picking up steam amongst concert organizers and music fans. The rare confluence of value, efficiency and idealism is pushing the entire concert industry into a more environmentally conscious place.
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