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Solar Powered fest shines a light on alternative energy

DFW.com Presents The Solar Powered Music Festival

Gates open 2 p.m. Saturday

Panther Island Pavilion

1098 W. Peach St., Fort Worth


Free; $35 all-access "Pug Passes" available at www.solarpoweredfest.com

Facebook: Solar Powered Music Fest

Twitter: @SolarMusicFest

Posted 10:59am on Wednesday, Jun. 13, 2012

For more than a decade, Austin-based Marsha Milam Music has produced free live-music events throughout Texas, including Fort Worth's KFWR/95.9 FM "The Ranch" Texas Music Series and the Fort Worth Music Festival (formerly Jazz by the Boulevard).

Many of her shows took place in Austin, and since the city had a growing "green" reputation, Milam thought it would be a good place to give a series of solar-powered concerts a try. She told the Austin Business Journal in 2009 that the goal was to produce a show with clean power -- and to prove that such a show could be done.

Although she didn't market the first show heavily (just in case anything went wrong), by the second of the seven shows, she knew the series was a success.

"It just had this charming quality to it," Milam says. "It wasn't like the lights twinkled any brighter, but you just stood there, and we had this whole downtown block, and our stage and lights were solar-powered, and our food vendors were solar-powered. People loved the idea that you could stand there and go, 'Oh, my gosh, this whole thing is powered by the sun.'"

Milam is one of the minds behind Fort Worth's first Solar Powered Music Festival, which is presented by DFW.com. The festival, which will take place from 2 to 11 p.m. Saturday at Panther Island Pavilion, will feature a main stage headlined by ska pioneers the English Beat, preceded by the Romantics, of What I Like About You fame.

The main-stage lineup will also include Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights, That 1 Guy, Ishi and Whiskey Folk Ramblers. Rahr & Sons brewery is the main sponsor, and there will be a Rahr Lounge with a lineup featuring Michael Donner, Sam Anderson, Brenna Manzare and Telegraph Canyon's Chris Johnson.

Mike Skill, one of the longest-running members of the Romantics (three-quarters of the original lineup will perform at the fest), says he believes that this is the band's first solar-powered show.

"We did something up in Washington state along these lines, but I don't think it was solar-powered, which is great," Skill says. "Jack Johnson has a solar-powered studio, and that's pretty cool, so I don't foresee any problem."

Milam says that solar might not be the most practical way to go, but she enjoys it, and since she spends a lot of time in Fort Worth, she decided she would like to give a North Texas solar fest a try.

"We always have a backup generator," Milam says, "but during a regular show, I always have a backup generator, because you can have a power failure with any kind of energy.... It was interesting for us to prove that we could do it, and it was interesting to see it be done."

The solar panels will be provided by 1SolTech, a Farmers Branch-based manufacturer of solar equipment, and North Texas Renewable Energy Group will power vendor tents.

Although 1SolTech has worked events such as Earth Day Dallas 2012, Sandy Fardi, who co-founded the company with her husband, Zak, says this will be 1SolTech's first music festival. The company will set up two solar arrays Friday, so that they can charge up their battery systems in time for the festival.

But all that's behind the scenes. Aside from solar panels, the audience shouldn't see anything different.

"I hope that they notice everything in a positive way," Fardi says, "having a really good time knowing that this event doesn't contribute any negative, unnecessary power usage and comes from a renewable power source."

The festival is free, but festgoers are encouraged to bring a donation for DFW Pug Rescue. (Dog food, medication and leashes will be accepted, as well as cash donations.) A limited number of $35 Pug Passes will provide access to the backstage Rahr Lounge, two drink tickets and a Rahr T-shirt. Food trucks (albeit not solar-powered) also will be on site.

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