Pittsburgh is rife with fun and exciting events going on nearly around the clock. From the huge River Regatta and its incredible races to the smaller 5k runs seeded throughout the city for various causes, Pittsburgh always has something to do. But, how are these events powered? Where does all the energy for the plethora of food trucks come from? A single food truck requires a relatively large amount of energy that cannot be supplied by the engine alone. What about the sound system and the DJ? Surely we cannot have an event without some kind of music to keep the crowds happy!
As of 2012 there has been a company that has seen this need and taken humongous steps towards, not only meeting it, but doing it in a sustainable way. Zero Fossil is a company owned and managed by Steven Kovick, a chemical engineer turned electrical afficianado. Steven believes that Pittsburgh’s various events can be entirely powered by sustainable sources such as solar panels and veggie oil generators. His company, Zero Fossil, is based out of a small shop in Homestead. From here he engineers various interactive machines that demonstrate the efficiency of various types of energy consuming devices. One such device is a Will, a crank generator hooked up to 3 bulbs of various efficiency(Incandescent, CFL, LED) to demonstrate the investment of chemical energy required to create mechanical energy. As would be expected the LED bulb allows for an easy turning of the wheel, while CFL is a bit more tough to turn, with the incandescent bulb offering the most resistance to the user who is trying to generate the energy.
This method of energy production is not without its flaws, of course. Planning an events energy requirements tends to be a fluid process as simple factors such as weather and surrounding foliage tend to be significant contributing variables. These panel’s cells work in a series, thus if one cell is completely covered then there will be a net production of zero for that time frame. Panels have been improved drastically from the original design. For example if even one section of cell was covered, there would be no energy production. These days it requires something similar to the size of a large hand in order to stop production.
Pittsburgh being an incredibly blue collar town, it can be difficult to draw individuals away from the concept of coal as a singular energy source. With its roots down deep in steel fabrication and energy production by means of utilizing the Bitumonous Coal that is so abundant in western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh has always been seen as a cornerstone for the coal industry. However, this trend is finite as it is incapable of being sustained for a significant amount of time without the populace bearing witness to significant environmental damages.
Pittsburghers have noticed this trend and as the city marches ever forward, its’ trends do as well. With the focus shifting from coal to sustainable energy. Homestead resident and Zero Fossil founder, Steven Kovick, seeks to enable event planners and programmers the option of using solar energy to entirely power their event. Using “Juice Boxes”, simply large mobile battery banks, Steven and his crew are capable of meeting the power needs of large events. These juice boxes are powered using a various array of solar panels, from the small, flexible 50W panels to the larger and more rigid 250W panels. The panels can be plugged into the juice box using an adapter fitting for an inverter. This takes the DC solar electricity and converts it into AC, which is utilized by all devices for energy.
I’ve worked for Steven for 2 years and simply cannot speak enough to his company’s mission, to make Pittsburgh the leading city in sustainable energy. This mission statement is broad and imposing, yet Steven stands firm in his beliefs and attempts to educate the public. He believes that individuals cannot make a conscientious decision to make the shift to renewables if they are simply unaware of everything that it comprises. While providing power for the events, Steven can be frequently found speaking to a group of people about what his company does and how it’s success is achieved. He is always happy to answer any questions the general populace may have, explaining in a way that is neither condescending or over simplified.