Generation Genset

When dealing with on location-power generation for film and TV production, diesel generators and batteries have their respective limitations. The power generator must be reliable, affordable, and quiet. It should work efficiently at different load profiles and, furthermore, it should generate zero-emission power. Several off-grid solutions are now being developed.


A zero-emission solution available for various applications may be found in fuel cells. The basic principle involves an electrochemical reaction that splits hydrogen gas molecules (H2) to create hydrogen ions and electrons. The power provided by fuel cells ranges from methanol-based portable units with outputs of 1 W to 150 W, to hydrogen-based stand-by power units with10 kW to 100 kW, all the way up to heavy-duty natural- gas-based power units with 250 kW.


Depending on the amount of energy needed, different projects and production conditions call for different solutions. Fuel cells can power a remote camera for several days on end if wildlife is being filmed for a documentary. While batteries only supply a limited amount of power before they lose their charge, fuel cells automatically supply power when the batteries drop below their 12.5 volt floating charge. This turned out to be the perfect solution for a documentary crew that was filming wildlife for the BBC’s Winterwatch program. Housed in Peli cases, two methanol-powered fuel cells provided enough energy to operate a pair of remote cameras for nine days.


Meanwhile, larger crews shooting in London’s city-center have different requirements. Starting in 2019, film and TV productions will be able to power their shoots with green energy straight from the electrical grid. Launched by Film London, this pilot project will provide grid access at ten key locations throughout the city. Waterloo Place will be one of the first public squares where productions can plug into the grid via an electric cabinet instead of using diesel generators. “A move to green electricity has the potential of not only significantly cutting CO2 emissions and noise pollution created by diesel generators on location, but it can also reduce fuel costs for film and TV productions at frequently used sites in the capital”, says Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of Film London and the British Film Commission.


An ambitious off-grid solution will be made available throughout Europe by the Everywh2ere Project. Budgeted at € 6.76 m, the goal of this Horizon 2020 project is to make hydrogen-based power units affordable for sustainable operation in European cities. This consortium brings together twelve partners who represent technology centers, fuel cell system experts, and hydrogen producers as well as a construction company from six European countries. Thanks to its expertise with fuel cell applications for automotive solutions, robust fuel-cell stacks, and low-weight pressurized hydrogen technologies, the Everywh2ere Project will provide transportable gensets. In total, eight gensets with a power capacity of 25 kW and 100 kW will be developed.


“The first prototypes will be unveiled in fall 2019”, says Jacob Bilabel who represents the Green Music Initiative in the Everywh2ere Project. In 2020, the gensets will be tested at construction sites, music festivals, and public events throughout Europe. Gensets will also be made available for field testing on film sets. “Our goal is to make this hydrogen technology affordable so that it can compete with traditional generators.”


Photos: © SFC Energy/Fuel Cell Systems, James Walter

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