Four years ago, Faas Moonen was walking around on the terrain of Extrema Outdoor with Floor van Schie - still a student at the time - to have a look at the SummerLabb pavilion, which she designed. He also spotted an endless row of diesel generators that did not just provide energy, but caused a great deal of noise and stench as well. “During a large-scale festival of three days, approximately 100,000 liters of diesel is used. I started to think about an alternative, and understood that solar energy alone would never be an adequate solution.”
The combination with wind energy seemed like a useful idea to Moonen. The European initiative Interreg agreed and approved TU/e’s subsidy application. In the North-West Europe program, under the headings ‘Innovation’ and ‘Toward a low carbon economy,’ Moonen received a sum of 2.3 million euros in funding.
With this money, three PDEng’s, the building materials, software, and the expensive battery can be paid for. Floor van Schie and Patrick Lenaers are responsible for the design, as part of their current traineeship.
“The idea is that the tower is dismantled, transported, and set up again in one day,” says Moonen, “that way, it can be used every weekend. On Monday, a festival is disassembled, and on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, everything is assembled again. In effect, that leaves only Tuesday to transport the tower. During summertime, an average of three festivals take place each day in the Netherlands.”
The GEM-Tower can drastically reduce diesel energy and, consequently, CO2 emission. It is quiet, and at night the wind supplies the camping sites next to the stages with enough energy. During the day, the tower generates energy through LSC panels with beautiful colors. These Lumen Solar Concentrator panels are also part of associate professor Michael Debije’s research in the TU/e department of Chemical Engineering and Technology.
The pop-up windmill is 21 meters high and is specifically designed for different ground surfaces. The festivals Noorderslag (the Netherlands), Pukkelpop and Dour (Belgium), and Glastonbury (United Kingdom) participate in the European project. “You’re dealing with flat or sloping surfaces, but also with a city where you can’t put anything in the ground, not even a tent peg,” says Moonen. “The tower will not be unfolded manually, but with just one push on a button.”
During a congress at Eurosonic Noorderslag, Moonen presented festival organizers with a scale model of the GEM-Tower, held a speech, and was the subject of an item from regional newspaper Dagblad van het Noorden. But what he picked up in the corridors was equally interesting: “An artist told me that the tower was such a beautiful eye-catcher, and that we should have a DJ perform in it. When I discussed this with others, I was given the advice never to do this. That would mean we could write off the tower after being used just two times, because DJ’s like to have unique podiums.”
The tower is currently under construction, and Moonen hopes to know within a month and a half at which festivals he will be able to test it. Only after a longer period will the researchers gain a realistic insight into the possibilities of diesel reduction.
This will not be achieved only by Moonen’s eye-catching showpiece. “We will have to use as many solar panels as possible,” says the project leader. “We will also equip the accommodations (collapsible rooms that can be deployed at festivals) of our co-developer Flexhotels with solar panels. And in the long term, we hope to connect different towers and optimize them as one system to distribute the energy. We are at the end of the first year now. Next season, we are going to build a second tower. It might be a brand new one, or an improved version. I’m curious what we are going to discover this summer.”