Posted on 7th October 2021

Electric generators powering sustainable sets

The film & TV industry is making big strides when it comes to adoption of electric generators over traditional diesel powered generators. In this article we go over how this is happening, and how electric generators may have advantages which go beyond reduced impact...

Powering a film production on location is traditionally an expensive business, with a high carbon footprint to boot. The norm has been, and still is diesel generators, despite the widely recognised need to move away from using fossil fuels. 

It’s only been in recent years that the technology has caught up to a level where electric generators are a viable alternative, and the current issue is now one of scarcity. There just aren’t enough electric generators out there at the moment to allow for industry-wide adoption.

What’s the status quo? When filming on location, productions typically need to establish a Unit Base in the vicinity, which is usually made up of trailers and vehicles which house departments such as catering, hair & make-up, costume and the video village, amongst others. Most productions will hire a minimum of two high power diesel generators, which each consume an average of 80 litres of diesel per 12 hour period of use, emitting half a tonne of CO2 emissions. Clearly, there was a market gap and demand for a more sustainable alternative, which is where Green Voltage came in.

The founders of UK hire company Green Voltage wanted to bring a range of eco-friendly generators into the European film production market. Read more about that story over at British Cinematographer.

One of the alternative generators Green Voltage brought to the UK and European industry was the VOLTstack, designed and manufactured by Vancouver-based Portable Electric.

Switching to electric generators can potentially help reduce a production’s impact by 15% (The average production would save 4.8 tonnes of emissions, or 0.4 tonnes per hour of final broadcast).

Alongside the benefit of reducing a production’s carbon footprint, VOLTstacks also provide benefits for the filmmaking process itself.

VOLTstacks are quiet compared to a traditional diesel generator, which can exceed noise levels of 70dB while running, and are usually placed away from the action (with lots of cabling) to avoid the sound being picked up while filming, as well as for the crew’s health and safety because of the fumes. The use of VOLTstacks eliminates the need for excessive cabling and mitigates potential difficulty in getting permits due to noise and air pollution complaints from local residents.

The VOLTstack as seen in No Time To Die. Blink and you'll miss it!

The VOLTstack as seen in No Time To Die. Blink and you'll miss it!

The ability to place them closer to the action has meant that crews on productions have been able to achieve shots which would have otherwise proved costly or impossible, such as a 360° degree IMAX pano shot in the centre of a lake in No Time to Die. A VOLTstack also makes an appearance in the trailer in James Bond’s garage, which at the time might have added credence to the unfounded rumours we’d see him driving an Electric Aston Martin Rapide E. Perhaps in a future instalment?

Find out how VOLTstacks helped CBS save on production costs during filming of God Friended Me over at Portable Electric’s website

Portable electric and Green Voltage are albert certified suppliers. Find out more about our suppliers here.