Westfest 2015 will feature solar-powered stages

By Craig Lord –

Sunny days are ahead for Westfest. Along with a return to Richmond Road, this iteration of the Westboro festival will also feature entirely solar-powered stages, thanks to a partnership with Ottawa startup Solar On Site. It’s all part of a larger, green festival movement that has been a long time coming for Westfest founder, Elaina Martin.

“As a free festival, it’s nearly impossible for me to ‘green,’ in almost any way,” says Martin. “As soon as I thought that that was a possibility, I jumped on it.”

Founders of Solar On Site: Robert Payne, George Lessard, Matthew Payne and Jordan West. Their energy experiment is a reflection of the communal spirit fuelling Westfest, says Payne. Photo provided by Solar on Site
Founders of Solar On Site: Robert Payne, George Lessard, Matthew Payne and Jordan West. Their energy experiment is a reflection of the communal spirit fuelling Westfest, says Payne. Photo provided by Solar on Site

Martin was approached by the team at Solar On Site about the possibility of renting their mobile, solar-powered generators to power the stages at Westfest. The higher cost of the renewable power source isn’t troubling Martin. She’s focused on the social impact of her festival.

“It’s all about social. I’ll pay to be able to do my part, to be a pioneer at doing my part, and showing others that they can do it too. That’s really what our partnership is about this year,” Martin says.

For Matthew Payne, one of the founders of Solar On Site, Westfest is the ideal stage to showcase what his generators can do. “The green movement is a strong one. And we’re here to lead it as best we can in Ottawa,” Payne says. “Being able to prove what we’re capable of at Westfest is hopefully going to jumpstart a movement.”

The solar startup was incorporated last November by four Ottawa entrepreneurs who have known each other since high school. They grew up with massive events like Bluesfest in their backyards and saw an opportunity to make a difference.

“At this point just attaching a few solar panels to your business or your house, I think, is not the only thought that is available. We can really take this energy anywhere with our mobile units,” Payne says.

These units – solar-powered generators on trailer beds – follow the sun for more efficient power conversion and store up to six hours of power at a time. This means that rain or shine, the show will go on.

Both Payne and Martin are hoping that Solar On Site catches on with other festivals in Ottawa after Westfest is over.

“I know that if we’re successful at it, it could really change our whole industry. And I want that,”says Martin.

Payne says that Martin is “the first promoter to really understand and get what we’re trying to accomplish and really be willing to take us on.… Her energy is incredible.” Pun, perhaps, intended.

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