Ottawa startup looks to make its mobile solar generators a staple at major events

Ottawa startup Solar On Site plans to generate plenty of power – and a lot of buzz – at Westfest next month.

The company aims to start a movement in the capital region to bring renewable energy sources to the city’s festival scene and beyond.

“What we’re looking to do is help provide people an opportunity to get off the grid, and also get away from the fossil fuels and diesel and gas generators that are currently being used at festivals,” says Solar On Site co-founder Matthew Payne.

The company was incorporated last November by four Ottawa friends with the goal of being part of the first wave of a “green festivals” movement. Mr. Payne and his partners are hoping their mission resonates with festivalgoers and organizers.

“The green movement is a strong one. And we’re here to lead it as best we can in Ottawa,” he says.

The sustainable startup rents mobile solar generators to festivals and special events, customizing the capabilities of the generators to its clients’ requirements. The team builds the generators themselves, either from scratch or from existing parts.“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,” Mr. Payne says.

Mobility isn’t the only draw for Solar On Site’s generators. The company also implements tracking technology so that panels can move to follow the sun’s rays, increasing the efficiency of its systems. Additionally, the generators can store up to six hours of energy at a time, a reassurance for festival organizers that the show will go on, rain or shine.

Solar On Site currently has a fleet of three generators, with plans to expand. Its largest generator – capable of outputting 12,000 kilowatts of power – will be unveiled for the first time at Westfest’s stages during the Westboro arts and music celebration, which runs June 13 and 14.

Festival founder Elaina Martin had been waiting a long time for an opportunity like Solar On Site.

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

Though solar-powered options are typically a more expensive route to power festivals, Ms. Martin says she sees it as more than just a matter of dollars and cents.

“You might save a few dollars, but what you’re doing to the environment will make up for it,” she says. “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.”

Solar On Site sees Westfest as the ideal venue to demonstrate what its technology can do.

“There’s a lot of skepticism as to the abilities of these systems,” Mr. Payne says. “Being able to prove what we’re capable of at Westfest is hopefully going to jump-start a movement.”

Ms. Martin agrees.

“We’re really just trying to show the city, let’s all stop being complacent just doing what we’ve always done and let’s start looking at the new innovations that are clearly right on our doorsteps,” she says.

Mr. Payne adds he’s thankful that Westfest has taken a chance on proving the Solar On Site concept. To that end, the company has also joined the festival as a sponsor, seeing their relationship as a truly mutually beneficial partnership.

Solar On Site has ambitions to expand to festival scenes all around the Ottawa region, as well as into applications for cottage life or in northern communities. In the meantime, Westfest will provide its first big test.