Bonnaroo to Power 2013 Festival with the Sun

Celebrating its 12th year as a leader in environmentally friendly concert events, Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival continues to spearhead aggressive new initiatives that raise the bar in shrinking the carbon footprint of one of the largest, most popular festivals in the country.

In a groundbreaking effort to actively reduce its energy consumption, Bonnaroo organizers and representatives from Knoxville, Tenn.-based Sustainable Future and Vermont-based Encore Redevelopment announced today the completed construction and installation of the country’s first permanent solar array for a music festival. The 50 kW solar photovoltaic, (PV), system will support a notable portion of the festival's energy needs. Construction of the new solar array is complete, and it is already generating energy in advance of the 2013 festival.

“Running part of Bonnaroo on solar power has long been a goal, as it underscores the commitment of Bonnaroo organizers and our community to the environment," said festival partner Rich Goodstone from Superfly Presents. "None of this could have been possible without the immense support of the generous and forward-thinking Bonnaroo community.  Their contributions have brought this project to fruition."

The solar project was fully funded by "opt-in" contributions that fans select during the ticket-buying process. In effect for the past three years and always focused on sustainable site improvements, past opt-in dollars have been used to fund the compost pad, the garden, and last year's mobile tower of power. In addition, a $1 fee was added to every ticket sold in 2012 to generate guaranteed resources for additional green initiatives onsite.  As a result, Bonnaroo fans can take full credit for helping Bonnaroo expand its commitment to environmentally focused projects and programs.

The array system, which was planned by Encore Redevelopment and installed by Sustainable Future, is comprised of 196 American-made SolarWorld solar panels along with microinverters and related components that will be mounted to the roof of a metal structure in the festival’s back stage area. It will generate more than 61,000 kWh per year, about 20 percent of Bonnaroo's total electricity needs. While it will not be visible to patrons, fans will be able to see an educational display in Planet Roo and also monitor the power generated on the festival website.

“Sustainable Future is pleased to be helping Bonnaroo with its sustainability initiative by providing a solar system that will generate clean solar power for music lovers for many decades to come," said David Bolt, company founder. “It's a pleasure to work with such a progressive group."

Vermont-based renewable energy development firm Encore Redevelopment outlined the technical, social, and economic value of a solar array for the venue and managed the groundbreaking project from concept to commissioning.

Encore Founder and CEO Chad Farrell said about the endeavor,  "We are thrilled to have been part of this exciting project, which will allow for a significant portion of the total annual electrical demand of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival to be supplied by a clean, renewable resource.  Encore Redevelopment and other advocates for a clean energy future applaud Bonnaroo's continuing commitment to sustainability and the festival's strong voice related to the importance of a cleaner, greener planet."

As a certified participant in TVA’s Green Power Provider Program, Bonnaroo will sell all of the energy produced by the solar PV system back to the local utility distribution network. Locally, Bonnaroo worked with Duck River Utilities and Tennessee Valley Authority to bring the project to completion.

"As always, Tennessee agencies have been very supportive; we couldn't make projects like this one a reality without their support and expertise," said Laura Sohn, Bonnaroo's sustainability coordinator.

Since its inception in 2002, Bonnaroo has pioneered sustainability initiatives and outreach programs to reduce its impact on the earth and encourage fans to embrace eco-conscious lifestyles throughout the year. The festival is the only six-time U.S. recipient of “A Greener Festival” award, the international standard for environmentally efficient music festivals, and continues to look for new ways to improve year to year. Just some of Bonnaroo's impressive environmental programs include:

  • For the second year, Bonnaroo will partner with Zimride to offer a rideshare program for patrons. An online carpooling service, Zimride shares Bonnaroo's sense of community building while reducing the carbon footprint by lessening the number of cars that travel to the festival. Last year, more than 650 patrons enjoyed rideshare services.
  • Eco-Products will continue its Bonnaroo partnership:  In the last five years, festival patrons, staff, and artists have been eating off the company's totally compostable products. Since that time, Clean Vibes, Bonnaroo's onsite recycling and composting partner, has sent more than 296,000 pounds of Eco-Products to its compost pile. Composting all of its cutlery and serving ware is one of Bonnaroo’s proudest accomplishments.
  • Bonnaroo’s aggressive recycling and composting program has diverted more than three million pounds of festival waste from landfills since 2002. In addition, patrons have turned in more than 1 million cups, cans and bottles to the Clean Vibes Trading Post since it opened in 2008.

 “We work very hard every year to not only create new initiatives that lessen our impact, but also to educate and encourage our fans to take these ideas home with them,” explained Goodstone. "It's gratifying to add the solar array, and we remain committed to joining forces with our community to expand these kinds of projects each year."