The festival is the nation's only six-time recipient of the "A Greener Festival" Award, the international standard for environmentally efficient music festivals. Some of Bonnaroo's other efforts to be green include:
• Compostable food containers and cutlery
• An online carpooling service that last year placed 650 fans in ride-shares to and from the festival
• Aggressive recycling that has diverted more than 3 million pounds of festival waste from landfills since 2002, including more than 1 million cups, cans and bottles just since 2008
With the recent flip of a switch, Bonnaroo officials in Manchester, Tenn., turned on the power of the sun to energize the country's first permanent solar array for a music festival.
The 50-kilowatt solar system covers about 5,000 square feet and will provide about 20 percent of the power needed to run the festival, according to Laura Sohn, Bonnaroo's sustainability coordinator.
"We did it because it was the right decision to make and the fans want it," she said.
The solar project was funded fully by "opt-in" contributions that fans select during the ticket-buying process.
For the past three years, the opt-in $1 extra has been collected and used for sustainable site improvements such as a compost pad, demonstration garden and last year's mobile tower of power.
In addition, a regular $1 fee was added to every ticket sold in 2012 to generate guaranteed resources for additional green initiatives.
"As a result, Bonnaroo fans can take full credit for helping Bonnaroo expand its commitment to environmentally focused projects and programs," according to festival spokeswoman Ann Ewing.
Sohn declined to release the cost of the array and its installation, but she said the power savings from it, combined with incentives from state and federal government, will allow the work to pay for itself in five years.
The 196 American-made solar panels are mounted to the roof of a metal structure in the festival's back stage area, and they already are generating energy in advance of the 2013 festival.
The 61,000 kWh per year they are expected to generate automatically will be sold and routed to Duck River Utilities and Tennessee Valley Authority. Bonnaroo will receive credit on its power bill and that credit will cut power expense by 20 cents on every dollar, Sohn said.
While the array will not be visible to patrons, fans will be able to see an educational display about it in Planet Roo, and they will be able to monitor the power generated on the festival website.
"Running part of Bonnaroo on solar power has long been a goal, as it underscores the commitment of Bonnaroo organizers and our community to the environment," said festival partner Rich Goodstone from Superfly Presents in a prepared statement.
Laura Sohn is not related to reporter Pam Sohn.
Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...