The incessant hum of diesel generators at public events not only dulls our enjoyment, but pollutes the atmosphere. We can do better – for ourselves and for the long-term good of the Earth, says John Mustardé.
As MD of Tangent Energy, John is passionate about getting across the message that there is a better solution than fossil fuel power and the answer lies in the Sun. He and his colleagues are desperately working to produce effective, energy efficient solar batteries which can be monitored remotely to ensure optimum use.
Tangent is a new company – formed in April last year – but its origins go back a decade when friends of John’s were regular visitors to outdoor festivals and events and “got sick of hearing diesel generators”.
“They realised the sound not only reduced their enjoyment of what was going on around them, but that the fumes were affecting the atmosphere,” says John. “Gradually, they developed a solar-powered battery which was linked to a small computer to switch on a generator and they hawked the idea round to festivals. The festival operators loved the technology and my friends saw it had commercial possibilities.”
John came on board with a background of 20-plus years in the renewable energy field. “I had worked with wind power companies and built solar farms and when I met them we found we had a lot in common. Sitting in the pub one day we suddenly thought ‘we can make something of this’ and started to get a team together.”
With the help of Sussex Innovations Centre, which John describes as “exactly where we need to be”, Team Tangent is developing a reputation for providing alternative solutions to fossil fuel energy. It has worked on pilot schemes in Africa and staff are talking to construction companies in the UK to work out what they require from smart energy management.
There are other companies offering batteries that work alongside diesel generators, but John explains that Tangent Energy’s unique central monitoring system offers the ability for businesses to get an in-depth look at energy consumption on all their sites.
“Using our cloud-based platform, companies can control how and when they power up their equipment, wherever it is,” says John. “They can automatically switch individual units on or off. This saves noise and emissions of noxious fumes, cutting down on air pollution and ultimately helping to save the planet. We estimate a company can balance the cost of renting our equipment by the fuel it saves each week, so rendering their operation cost-neutral.”
Tangent Energy employs only 10 people so far, but John is hopeful that as the word gets around the company will grow. He has a vision for expanding the use of the central monitoring system, offering local authorities the opportunity to control pollution in a specific area, by getting companies to switch off individual machines, or move to alternative power sources.
“Something has to be done to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. There needs to be a change in our behaviour,” John says passionately. “Climate change is real and it is man-made. We can each make a difference. There are 15,000 diesel generators in the UK and it has been estimated that 15 per cent of diesel emissions come from the construction industry.
“Generators are very inefficient and dirty. There is a clean, efficient alternative. We need to stop our caveman tactics and start smart thinking and working.”
John, who trained as an engineer, began work in blue chip companies, before breaking off “for a bit of navel gazing” and “deciding to do something meaningful and useful with my life”. He became interested in alternative power sources, worked in the wind farm industry for a while, before being headhunted by a company building solar farms.
He’s finally found his niche and is enjoying a hectic work and personal life, as a relatively late father of two children under two (he’s 48) and although he tries to lead as green an existence as possible, he admits it’s not always easy.
“In the near future I’ll be buying an electric car. Until then we all do what we can within our means” he says.