Why is sustainability so important for major events?
Gary Meador (GM): Organising committees and bid cities are always weighing up the cost benefit of permanent versus temporary infrastructure; and creating a lasting legacy versus leaving things as the way you found them. A lot of the LOCs (local organising committees) are considering, along with the public consciousness, the most efficient and sustainable way to host major events, whether it is an international sporting event or music festival.
What a lot of the events are looking at now is they don’t necessarily need to build everything as a legacy. Not every city has the need for a permanent velodrome or a rowing venue. One of the things that Aggreko is really good at is working with customers to find innovative solutions to challenges around temporary power, air-conditioning and heating, or whatever their needs may be – to come in and help them make as little impact on the venue. At the end of the event we pick our stuff up and go away.
On the other hand, we also work with event organisers to help design what are meant to be legacy venues. We use our experience and key learnings during the planning phases, acting as a strategic partner as early as possible, to contribute to ideas on how infrastructure can be built or where it will have a fair use afterwards for example.
The benefit of adopting temporary power and cooling systems means you don’t have to build a venue to meet its peak requirements. You can build it to be somewhat less than that and supplement with on-site services to meet the additional capacity demand during the event.
For example, for a building that would normally seat 20,000 for a regular sporting event but has to seat 30,000 for a major event, you don’t have to put in an air-conditioning system that will cool 30,000 people, just one for 20,000 people that can be supplemented.
There’s all kinds of different ways we can work with LOCs to help them meet those goals.
You mentioned LOCs, do you work with them at this stage when they become an organising committee or is this something that potential event bidders can be thinking about earlier in the game?
GM: I think it’s definitely beneficial to think about sustainability earlier because a lot of people don’t have a great deal of experience with the temporary. Their only base of knowledge is working with a design-engineering firm, for example, that have only ever designed permanent structures. The earlier we can get involved the greater the opportunity is to improve efficiency and help create lasting benefits for the organising committees as they move forward.
It doesn’t have to be an organising committee, it could be the PGA of America, the US Golf Association or Formula 1, that’s just something we have developed a special niche for in the past 30 years.
Do you think that the rights holders and event organisers are fully aware of the possibilities of how solutions, like your temporary power solutions for instance, can make an event more sustainable?
GM: We are trying our level best to raise awareness of the benefits of temporary systems, but no I think that knowledge is still low. We have a lot of work to do moving in that direction. It’s not just our discipline; it’s the tent companies, the bleacher companies, the restroom trailer companies, everyone. We have mastered the ‘art of the temporary’ and either supplement or fully provide services for an event from start to finish but need to spread the word on the benefits of this approach.
Which particular events have you been working on recently to enable these sustainable solutions?
GM: We have supported quite a few major events on the world’s stage lately: the Ryder Cup in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the Trump inauguration in Washington DC. We didn’t have a huge amount of time to think about sustainable solutions for the inauguration as it comes together virtually in a week after the election, but at the Ryder Cup we were able to do some neat things.
We introduced some LED lighted balloons that replaced standard diesel-generated light towers. We took some of those to the site, plugged into the on-site power source we were already providing, and helped the PGA of America eliminate the need for 20 light towers they would have had to rent. I think this saved about 40,000 tonnes of carbon across the length of the job.
We are trying to find innovative ways to work with event organisers and help them to meet their sustainability goals too. We are looking at battery technology to come in and maybe take over a small load at night, so the generator can shut off and the load can run on battery. Then when the load grows larger than the battery system, the generators start back up during the day.
We are continuing to look at new innovations likes these to really help events lower their carbon profile and meet their sustainability goals as well as cost savings. We owe it to our customers to help them find better and economical ways to do things. That’s part of our mission.
Energy storage is becoming increasingly important for a whole range of industries, but you can see why in the major events sector…
GM: Yes, we are waiting for that magic battery to be built that makes it ultra-efficient to store this power too. The technology isn’t quite there on the batteries, but it’s getting better.