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Why the “Eco Nightclub” Numbers Don’t Add Up

3p Contributor | Friday September 26th, 2008 | 0 Comments

crystal.jpgI love the novelty of the “Eco Dance Floor” – The idea is that some portion of a nightclub’s electricity might be generated by the kinetic motion of a crowd of people dancing. Indeed, this is possible, but can’t even come close to the amount of energy a club need to sustain itself for the evening.
Adam Vaughan of SmartPlanet.com has pulled together an excellent de-bunking of the claims made by Bar Surya, in London, the self proclaimed “world’d first eco nightclub”. His post is reproduced below. Not that we’re raining on anyone’s parade here – we just want the facts. If we’re going to make bold “eco-claims” it’s a recipe for public relations disaster to exaggerate the numbers – not just for the club at hand, but for others who might be most conservative in singing their praises. The original is here.
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When the “world’s first eco nightclub” opened in London this July, it attracted unqualified plaudits and celebs including Jade Jagger, Coldcut and shadow environment minister Greg Barker. But did Bar Surya deserve the praise? Is it really as green as it claims? To find out, I chatted to the team behind the club and looked at the numbers.
Claim 1: The dancefloor creates 60 per cent of the club’s electricity

The piezoelectric dancefloor at Bar Surya uses the pressure of dancing clubbers to generate electricity. The owners have variously claimed the floor provides between 50 and 60 per cent of the entire club’s electricity requirement (the 50 figure came from an email Bar Surya sent me, the 60 per cent from its website).
Bar Surya won’t say exactly how many kilowatt hours (kWh) the floor generates (kilowatt hours are the standard unit utility companies base electricity charges on). Let’s make an educated guess. Club Watt, a new eco club in the Netherlands, has a similar dancefloor and estimates each dancer generates between 5 and 10 watts.


Plasma problem
The dancefloor at Bar Surya is roughly big enough for 60 people. So if 60 people dance for eight hours solid, they’d generate approximately 4.8kWh. Is that 60 per cent of the club’s electricity requirements? It’s unlikely, and here’s why.
Bar Surya has at least four 42 inch plasma screens powered up when the club is open. Even being generous and assuming they’re the most efficient models money can buy, those four TVs alone would consume 6.8kWh over eight hours of dancing. In other words, even if I’ve underestimated the dancefloor’s power generation by a third, the TVs would still cancel it out.
And remember, this is a nightclub. In addition to the tellies, it has a sound system, lighting, refrigeration and other appliances drawing electricity.
Nu-NRG
How much electricity does a club use? It’s hard to tell. I asked a few London venues but couldn’t get an annual kWh figure. Club Watt assumes a club with 180,000 visitors a year consumes 380,000kWh. The average UK home, by contrast, uses 4,700kWh a year. For want of a yardstick, let’s assume Bar Surya has 18,000 clubbers through its doors each year, racking up an annual bill of 38,700kWh.
Now, even if 50 people danced non-stop for 365 days a year, they’d only produce 5,256kWh. That would be about 13.6 per cent of the club’s electricity consumption.
Of course, all these figures are guesstimates and presume Club Watt’s own estimates are correct. But you get the idea: Surya’s 60 per cent requires a big stretch of imagination.
Claim 2: It’s solar- and wind-powered
It’s true the club is partly powered by renewable energy. Bar Surya has solar panels on its roof which are rated at 8 kilowatt peak (kWp is the standard measurement for solar panels). That’s pretty powerful — most solar installs on residential homes are around 2.5kWp. Surya’s solar system should produce around 6400kWh of electricity a year.
The club tells me it also has two wind turbines rated at 3kW combined, but it doesn’t say how much electricity they generate. Wind speed at the club’s location is about 11mph at 10 metres above the ground, which is theoretically plenty to power a turbine. Without knowing more, however, it’s hard to estimate how successful these turbines are.
One thing’s for sure: Surya’s claim that it “plans to donate surplus electricity to locals” is unintentionally misleading. When it exports its solar and wind electricity to the national grid, Surya doesn’t have any choice in where the electricity goes — it just goes into the grid.
The verdict
Don’t get me wrong. Bar Surya deserves to be applauded for its eco efforts, even if its claims regarding the dancefloor appear a little breathless. It also earns kudos for installing renewable power and sexing up the green movement.
Most importantly, after a slow start, the club is starting to host some good acts. Green or not, clubbers go clubbing for the music — plus a few other reasons — and I’d wager anyone into breakbeat will have already booked tickets for this weekend’s night featuring Atomic Hooligan.
– Adam Vaughan (SmartPlanet.com)
ADDENDUM:
Since this article was published, Bar Surya has told SmartPlanet its 60 per cent claim regarding the dancefloor was intended as a statement of ambition rather than a statement of reality now. The club also explained that when it said it was donating “surplus electricity to locals” it was referring to electricity it shares with six private residences above the club. Bar Surya does not export electricity to the national grid as this article originally and incorrectly stated. I did ask the club twice before publishing this article what it meant by its statement. Clarification, however, occured after it was published.
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