Getting down with alternative energy sources at Calgary Folk Fest

Posted by Helen Pike on 13 July 2015


A photo taken from the stage of a crowd enjoying tunes from a previous Folk FestA photo taken from the stage of a crowd enjoying tunes from a previous Folk Fest

A University of Calgary study is counting on some “good vibrations” to help power an illuminated sign at the Calgary Folk Festival as part of an ongoing study.

She calls it a “vibrational energy harvester” and Natalie Robertson said it will use the movement of musicians and vibrations from instruments to generate electricity. That means the more artists boogie, the more power will be stored in a bank of batteries – which in turn will power an LED light installation the main gate.

“The display isn’t ‘necessary’ per se, but it is cool and engaging,” she explained. “The LED display will be a direct reflection of power generated each day. It will reset each morning before the gates open, though the data collection is a 24-hour process.

John Hiebert, the festival production manager, said when Robertson, who has volunteered with the festival before, came to him and pitched the idea he thought it fit right into the festival’s environmental mission statement perfectly.

“The music and the vibration create the lighting exhibition, so it draws nothing and it’s made by the actual festival,” Hiebert said. “I think conceptually it’s right up our alley.”

Robertson said the experiment is about energy and people and with the data she will be able to create a formula to help and understand how to power other projects effectively working towards someday having a city like Calgary act as its own battery.

“It would be feasible to attach this type of technology to bridges or street lights – anything that vibrates,” she said. Adding that maybe in the future she could even try to power aspects of the stage, but for now she’s after the data from Folk Fest to look at the technology’s possibilities.

The alternative energy source, unlike other renewable energy models, doesn’t rely on sunlight, or wind, but movement – which Robertson pointed out is readily available in a city.

Robertson is doing this experiment as the basis of her Master’s thesis with the Faculty of Environmental Design.

Tech specs: 
70 sensors will be installed under the National Stage
Every day festival goers will be able to see their movement’s impacts reflected in a light display at the Main Gate.