Off-grid events are becoming increasingly popular, and Red Bull's annual event Rampage is no exception. The home to some of the best mountain biking courses in the world is in the middle of the desert in Utah, where the nearest power outlet is miles away. Critical parts of the event were powered by batteries and solar panels rather than gas generators, which is a true testament to how far renewable energy technology has come in recent years. Capacitech was hired to address the shortcomings of batteries to power media equipment, a drone charging station, and ovens so that this off-grid event could take place without any issues. Let’s take a look at how Red Bull's off-grid event was powered by batteries, solar panels, and Capacitech’s Power Storage Cables.
The Benefits of Using Batteries and Solar Panels
When Red Bull wanted to power their freeride mountain bike competition, Rampage, they opted to use batteries and solar panels to power parts of their event. Choosing batteries and solar as gas generator alternatives is a smart choice for a number of reasons. Gas generators are noisy and give off unpleasant odors, which can ruin the spectator’s experience. Additionally, they require someone to keep them topped off with gasoline which is costly and bad for the environment. Even when little to no power is being used, idling generators still consume gas, which is an expensive and limited resource when you are miles from the nearest gas station. In an effort to conserve gas, generators need to be turned off at night, further reducing power access at the event for night crews to use.
Solar panels and batteries are an odor and noise-free alternative. We go deep into these benefits in one of our articles on this topic. Check it out here. The basics of it are that sunlight powers the load (equipment like walkie-talkie chargers, laptops, small TVs, etc...) and charges the batteries. When extra energy is needed or a cloud passes overhead, the batteries discharge, providing the electrical power required to sustain the equipment the system is powering. This is an environmentally friendly and cost-saving option that should be highly considered for powering outdoor events.
The Challenges of Using Batteries and Solar Panels
However, when using batteries and solar panels to power an event like Red Bull Rampage, there can be a few challenges. While batteries are great options for charging laptops or phones, they struggle to power equipment that need a large burst of power to turn on. Batteries are not designed for this kind of sudden delivery of large amounts of power, but equipment like speakers, jumbotrons, fast-charging drones, and ovens require it. This is where Capacitech comes in. At Rampage, our job was to ensure that drone charging stations, water filtration systems, and ovens used to bake s’mores were operational, without needing to oversize the battery system.
How’d we do it? We use an incredible technology called a supercapacitor, which is hidden inside Capacitech's Power Storage Cables where they don’t compete for space with other equipment or batteries. Supercapacitors can quickly deliver large amounts of power, so they are the ideal device for providing the turn-on power required by equipment typical of outdoor events. By using a combination of batteries and supercapacitors, Red Bull Rampage was able to have a successful off-grid event powered by renewable energy sources.
Power Storage Cables to the Rescue
Inverters are an integral part of powering off-grid events. Inverters convert the DC voltage from the batteries and supercapacitors into AC voltage to power the equipment. Inverters have a working voltage window, and if the DC input voltage to the inverter is too low, it does not deliver the correct AC output voltage. This results in the equipment either not turning on or improperly functioning.
So why is it so hard to use batteries to power certain kinds of loads? It is because they have a high internal resistance. When a high-powered load is connected to a battery, like plugging in a drone battery to charge, there will be a large instantaneous drop in the battery's voltage. That voltage drop is too low for the inverter, leading to the wrong AC output voltage. This was the case about 5% of the time at Red Bull Rampage (the times when the equipment was being plugged in or turned on), the battery voltage was about 20% lower than it should have been. Given the load needs a certain amount of power, the response is to draw more current out of the battery to compensate for the low voltage. This only worsens the issue.
Power Storage Cables to the rescue. As mentioned before, Capacitech's Power Storage Cables utilize supercapacitor technologies. Supercapacitors have a significantly lower internal resistance than batteries do, which is one of the key differences between batteries and supercapacitors. It is also why supercapacitors are so good at instantaneously delivering high levels of power. Pairing them together reduces the system's overall internal resistance, resulting in a smaller instantaneous voltage drop when turning on equipment. This enables the system to provide the correct DC voltage to the inverter and avoids all these issues to provide reliable power storage. This is important in more areas than you think. It’s not just drone charging stations, but this approach was also used to power water filtration systems through the night (after hours when all the gas-powered generators were turned off) and also ovens in a farmer’s market-like setting used to bake s’mores.
The Future of Off-Grid Events
Events like college tailgates and music festivals are powered by gas generators every day. However, it is time to turn towards a more environmentally friendly alternative. It is time to replace gas generators and power more than just phones and laptops with solar panels and batteries. From jumbotrons to speaker systems, Capacitech’s Power Storage Cables enable solar panels and batteries to power almost anything at outdoor events!
Making use of the superpowers of supercapacitors, Capacitech's Power Storage Cables help solar panels and batteries do more. So, the next time you're at an outdoor event, take a look at what's powering it. It may very well be powered by solar panels and batteries, made possible by Capacitech's Power Storage Cables!