Arcola becomes first hydrogen fuel cell-powered theatre

Lalayn Baluch

North London’s Arcola Theatre has become the first venue to install an environmentally friendly hydrogen fuel cell to power the site.

The 5kw fuel source, which operates almost silently and produces nothing but electricity and clean water, will run the theatre’s cafe-bar and selected main house productions. It has been installed in the foyer of the theatre, accompanied by displays describing the benefits and challenges of the new technology.

The system has been supplied by London Hydrogen Partnership, with additional funding from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Arts Council England, London Borough of Hackney and the Mayor of London’s Greening London Theatre initiative.

The changes are part of the Arcola’s extensive sustainability-related activities, formulated under the title Arcola Energy and spearheaded by executive director Ben Todd, who also works as a consultant in the fuel cell industry.

Todd commented: “The arts have a crucial role to play in elucidating and motivating the changes in lifestyle necessary to deliver an equitable future for all humankind. Through Arcola Energy, Arcola Theatre is demonstrating that bold changes can be made and that making them offers exciting opportunities for new creative partnerships.”

The first show to be powered by the cell will be Simple8′s The Living Unknown Soldier, produced by Strawberry Vale, which opens on February 12. LED lighting for the production will consume 60% less energy than traditional lighting installations, and the show’s environmental footprint will be evaluated by leading sustainability advisers Global Action Plan.

Meanwhile, the theatre’s cafe has now been turned into an eco-bar with organic and fair-trade refreshments, and will also be illuminated by LED lights.

Todd added: “When we launched Arcola Energy in July 2007 we planned to install renewable technologies within 12 months. This is unlikely to be possible due to restrictions on what we can do as a leaseholder and the protracted business of securing the freehold for our premises – a problem faced by many organisations – the installation of the fuel cell and our present emphasis on greening our operations are examples of what can be done now whilst infrastructure projects are under development.”

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