Capturing the imagination: Cloudbass takes the future of battery-powered live sports production forwards with Speedway

Cloudbase took a Speedway production for TNT Sports to a new level by powering it from 10 Tesla batteries

Cloudbass took sustainable production to the next level recently with a Speedway production using 10 Powerwall batteries to bring the production home. The day at Perry Barr Stadium, Birmingham for TNT Sports and Warner Bros. Discovery [29 April 2024] finished with 30% battery power remaining at the end of the broadcast, and 20% left by the time the derig was finished, making it a huge success.

This first for the UK, says Cloudbass managing director Steve Knee, is just the first step in a longer road to making all live sports productions a lot more sustainable. On the results, Knee says while this experiment was successful, the next step is making it suitable and working out the use cases for larger OBs.

“This rig will handle small and medium-sized productions. There’s a piece of work to do in terms of if we needed to have a rig day, because you would need to potentially be able to charge it up overnight between the rig day and the TX day. You would be relying on a bit of shore power for that, but the type of shore power that you might need is potentially different to what you need for a live OB,” he says.

“We are looking at ways of how we could split up the electrical requirements on a larger OB. We’ve always worked very closely with Sky so we’re looking at ways that we can potentially move this into the Scottish Premier League for Sky on larger productions. But again, that needs another level of thinking about the power use and the workflow on site and how we do things. That may be relying on shore power in Scottish Premier League venues for most of the time, but then you wouldn’t want to be on that shore power during the broadcast in case there was a problem with it.”

He says that the Tesla Powerwall technology could be used to add much-needed redundancy into larger OBs. “It might be that we could use this solution to give us confidence that we have a way of going to air, which is then isolated from anything else that’s going on.”

He notes: “On where it’s going, we’d love to move away from diesel gen sets across the board, but the next piece of work is how do we now take this to a larger facility where you can’t be a remote production or can’t be a cloud production, where you still have a desire to go on site and do things for a number of days. Looking at solutions for that is the next step.”

Cloudbase MD Steve Knee says that Tesla Powerwall technology could be used to add much-needed redundancy into larger OBs

Capturing the imagination

On why Cloudbass went for Tesla, Knee explains that three of the company’s directors installed Powerwalls at home a year ago to learn more. He comments: “We had the experience with Tesla personally, and I also wanted to get the attention of Tesla because as an outside broadcast provider, we are absolutely ready and waiting for the new Tesla tractor units, the Tesla Semis that they’ve been rolling out to PepsiCo in America.

“When those semis scale up and become available to haulage, I know – and we know from our financials around running big trucks – we will buy them straight away because the cost savings from running electric trucks will be immense compared to diesel trucks.”

The Tesla Powerwalls can be charged from solar energy, and then the power generated if not needed can be sold back to Tesla Energy. This means the new Tesla trucks could make Cloudbass revenue, Knee notes: “Potentially when this truck is sat in base doing nothing, it can be buying and selling electricity to the grid and making us money.”

Cloudbass uses a renewable energy supplier at its Derbyshire base already, which means it is able to charge the batteries in a sustainable way. It is set to put solar panels on the trucks themselves so in between jobs, the sun can charge the batteries. Also, in anticipation of the Tesla Semi trucks becoming available, it is in the process of installing a 420 panel solar array at its headquarters to power those.

However, on whether there are alternatives to Tesla in this situation, Knee says. “Yes, but a lot of them are at least twice the price. And I’ll be completely frank, Tesla catches the imagination; if you mention Tesla, suddenly people sit up and take notice.”

Cloudbass recently ran a first of its kind trial in sustainability for TNT Sports, with the main broadcast powered by 10 Tesla Powerwall batteries

Comfortable business case

As to the business case for this type of set up, today the solution created by Cloudbass is around double the cost of one using traditional diesel generators. However, while a 10-strong Powerwall solution may cost around £60,000 to put together, the electricity, if sourced from renewable means, will be significantly lower in cost than the generator option over time.

Knee adds: “It’ll get to a point where we’ll get very, very comfortable in terms of broadcasting and relying on a battery solution, so you won’t need to take a generator; you’ll know that you’ve got enough power in the solution and it’ll be much more reliable than having to factor in generators or other forms of redundant power if you need it.

“So yes, I think in the short term this is more expensive in terms of the initial outlay – probably about twice the price compared to a typical generator solution – but you’ll quickly make that back [due to running costs of this solution versus diesel fuel]. And of course it’s how it’s perceived by customers because obviously everyone wants to go green in the best way possible.”

Key for sustainability

Summing up, Knee says this experiment is an important one for sustainability. “I think what we can do in our industry is not virtue signalling, but we can amplify the message of what we’re doing because we’re in a business that is about telling stories and sending messages. I think it’s good for us in our industry, even though we’re not going to save the planet by doing a battery-powered broadcast, to show the way.

“The other business case is it puts us at the forefront of our customers and may help us win more work because the reaction that we’ve had from our clients to this solution has been phenomenal. They’re very, very interested in using it. So if it wins you more work, brilliant,” he concludes.

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