Collapsible energy tower for festivals is ready for convenient use

Almost all festivals in Europe use toxic diesel generators as their power source. As a sustainable alternative, researchers from TU Eindhoven and 9 companies have developed a 21 meter high folding tower with solar panels and a wind turbine. This week the ‘GEM Tower‘ was erected on the TU Eindhoven campus in its entirety for the first time, ahead of the first practical test which will take place next week during the Pukkelpop music festival in Belgium.

Learn more about the GEM Tower: powering music festivals with sustainable energy

The polluting nature of festivals had been a thorn in the side of associate professor of innovative structural design Faas Moonen for years. He started working in 2017 on a sustainable alternative, with the help of a €2.3 million grant from Interreg Europe. He has since appointed a post-doc and three engineering PhDs to assist him. Nine companies are currently working on his dream, including festival organizers Pukkelpop and Eurosonic Noorderslag (Groningen).

Ready for the first extensive tests

Three PhD Eng. students from TU Eindhoven are working on the project: Floor van Schie (left), Marius Lazauskas (center) and Patrick Lenaers (right). © Bart van Overbeeke

The next festival tower is now ready for the first extensive tests. “Eventually, a whole group of towers will be able to travel through European festivals and supply them all with 100% sustainable energy,” says Moonen. “I also hope their striking appearance will make festival-goers more aware of sustainability.”

Although fully sustainable solutions have been around for some time, combining them was a major challenge for the research team. “We constantly had to find a balance between designing an attractive eye-catcher, being able to guarantee optimum safety and our desire to generate as much energy as possible. It was quite a headache,” says Moonen.

Sustainability is not just about generating power: the tower itself is made of sustainable materials and thought has been given to the sustainable transport of this colossus. Although the exact performance of the tower has yet to be established through testing, it should be able to generate electricity for at least 261 days per year. Additionally, the base of the tower consists of a three-meter-tall battery pack that can store up to 90 kWh of electricity. Therefore, energy security can be guaranteed.

Most of the energy is generated by a vertical wind turbine weighing 700 kilograms and located at a height of 18 meters. This height was chosen because the wind blows the strongest above 18 meters. If there is no wind, the solar cells will provide stable power generation. No less than 144 small flexible thin-sheet solar cells cover the tower. In addition to this, the research team is providing 72 large flexible solar cells that festival organizers can place on the roofs of their food stalls, restrooms or tents and connect to the tower’s battery pack.

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40 multicolored solar collectors

The eye-catcher are the 40 multi-coloured solar energy collectors. These so-called LSC (Luminescent Solar Concentrator) panels were developed at TU Eindhoven by the research team of Professor Michael Debije from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry. The panels capture the incoming rays of light on their plates and transfer them to the edges. Within the frames of the panels are solar cells that convert these concentrated light beams into electricity. Moonen: “Because LSC panels don’t need direct sunlight, they are more widely applicable than solar cells. They harness energy both in the shade and in the sun. They continue to generate electricity even in completely cloudy weather.

“A crane is still needed to unfold the current model, although the final product unfolds automatically at the touch of a button. © Bart van Overbeeke

The tower was designed to be foldable to also make transportation more sustainable. It takes less than a day to assemble accordingly. The 3,500-kilogram steel part of the tower is folded about one meter thick and can be extended to a height of 14 meters. The whole mechanism is fixed with 300 gaskets and 542 bolts. A crane is still needed to unfold the current model, but the next design aims to unfold automatically at the push of a button.

Even more power

The coming year will be devoted to testing this tower. This model will be fully operational in 2020 and will move to festivals. Still, the research team is certainly not done after just one lap. “We will then start building a new tower that will generate even more energy and can also be deployed automatically,” says Moonen enthusiastically. “In addition to towers, we also want to keep our eyes open for other forms of sustainable energy production. My dream is to eventually supply all kinds of large-scale events with sustainable electricity through a network of batteries, towers, solar cells and other sustainable innovations – in summer and winter alike.

This project, named GEM-tower (Green Energy Mill), has been honored as an Interreg Europe project, with Eindhoven University of Technology as main partner. Faas Moonen is the TU/e ​​project leader and is supported by engineering researchers PhD Floor van Schie, Patrick Lenaers and Marius Lazauskas and postdoc Ester Pujadas-Gispert. Besides TU/e, nine other partners are also involved in the project: IBIS-Power, Double2, Pukkelpop, Off Grid Energy Limited, Dour, RPS, Eurosonic Noorderslag, Flexotels and ZAP. Visit the website for more information or to follow the project:

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