Power to Hand

Richard Denholm talks to Open Air Business about generators, the essential but largely unsung kit at the heart of a successful outdoor function.


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When might you need a generator?
Any activity which takes place outdoors and requires power should have its own, temporary source to get the event up and running. Temporary power solutions, in the form of generators, offer event and function organisers more flexibility, being brought on-site as and when, with the ability to hook up directly where they’re needed. 

We’re seeing a growing demand for portable power across a diverse range of sectors from boutique festivals like The Secret Garden Party, through county shows and major festivals including T in the Park and Glastonbury, to weddings and pop-up events. An example of the latter was when we supplied ultra-silent generators to the Manchester Christmas markets. Outdoor power also lends itself to communications, with high demands for network coverage in the remotest locations.

Specifying the correct size of generator requires that the voltage requirements of each ‘plug-in’ product are totalled. It is good practice that the generator be able to power the actual load plus 20%. If in doubt seek an electrical contractor or site electrician to confirm your loads.

What should one consider?
Choice of a generator should be based on the power requirements for the event, the footprint and weight of the generator to determine where it should be sited, and the emissions, including CO2 and sound levels. A further, operational factor is the total hours of use to determine how many times it will need to be refuelled during the period of an event.

Transport to, inside and from the site needs to be appraised. Our Eventa 37kVA generators are available for road tow so are easy to get onto site, eliminating the need for heavy lorries. This generator size, for example, can power a bar, disco, lights and heating, toilets and welfare units for a wedding depending, of course, on numbers and what equipment is used.

EVENTA-37kVAThe cost: hire or buy?
If the event is a one-off, such as a birthday or wedding, I advise the client to hire a generator, but for multiple events purchase is best. A small, 2kw petrol generator could cost around £1,000 while a 100kw super-silent diesel, on road tow, could cost some £25,000. Evaluating the total cost of ownership on a generator is crucial. Many buyers are often swayed by cheaper alternatives but, in the long run, these tend to cost more in terms of maintenance, parts and servicing, along with high on-site fuelling costs.

How noisy are they?
There are many makes and models of generators available on the market, however, we offer a range of ultra-silent generators with sound pressure as low as 55Dba. This is really quiet when you consider that a normal conversation level is about 65Dba. For events, super- and ultra-silent generators offer the best experience because they don’t create extra noise pollution or disturbance.

How noxious are they?
In 2011, the European Union established a series of increasingly strict regulations for diesel-powered equipment, including generators, to regulate the emissions within an urban zone and ensure acceptable use. Over the coming years, as more and more cities introduce acceptance levels and increasingly regulate emissions to meet environmental targets, I anticipate that emission levels will be further reduced. In fact, the EU is already working towards the introduction of Stage IV.

What about siting?
Issues start when a large truck has to deliver a heavier generator over soft ground. In such cases I recommend using floor mats or trackways, which your event hire company will be able to advise on. Even if a smaller, road-tow unit is to be supplied the surface must be sufficiently firm for a van to bring it to site. The larger generators (100+kw) are generally heavier and will need a hard base to stand on. Refuelling is also a key consideration during the event. Larger generators may require a fuel bowser to sit alongside to increase running time. Generators should be positioned close to where they are needed to prevent undue cabling so improving site safety.

About the Author
Richard Denholm is sales director at Morris Site Machinery, a leading British manufacturer and distributor of on-site machinery through its brands ArcGen, Hilta, SMC and Denyo. For over 25 years Morris Site Machinery has supplied to a host of industries including hire, rail and construction. Since its entry into the events, TV and film sectors five years ago, the company has enjoyed growth and prominence as the go-to power source for its generators and lighting tower product range. Its SMC lighting and Denyo generator ranges have been used on a number of blockbuster film sets and events from Glastonbury to Goodwood Festival of Speed. www.denyogenerators.co.uk

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