Styx Pioneers Studio Use Of Solar Power
by MOIRA McCORMICK
CHICAGO - Styx made recording history here Sept. 10 by becoming the first recording group to use solar power in the studio.
Solar Genny One, the 6,000-pound solar unit built by Solarwest Electric of Santa Barbara, arrived at 48-track Pumpkin Studios in south Suburban Oak Lawn Sept. 9, and was put to use the following day during a recording session for Styx's new LP. That album, their third cut at Pumpkin, has been in the works since July.
James "JY" Young, Styx guitarist and vocalist, has been a spokesman for the Solar Lobby since 1980, and has worked on this project over the past year, in conjunction with Solar Lobby promotional director Ty Braswell, "No Nukes" concerts technical coordinator Tom Campbell, and Solarwest Electric.
"This is a concrete example of solar power at work," says Young. "People can see it, see that it functions."
He adds, "This is a prototype, the first of its kind. It will be made better the next time around; this is the embryo of the next big thing." There have been no significant problems with the unit so far, says Young.
Solar Genny One was originally conceived to pioneer solar-powered concerts. Braswell and Campbell had been discussing that possibility for several years, and when Styx approached the Solar Lobby with offers of assistance, the project was underway. The first solar concert should take place next year, says Young.
The Styx recording session, he notes, was "a true acid test" of the unit's capabilities. "If it can run a recording studio," says the Solar Lobby's Braswell, "the rest is a piece of cake."
Solar Genny One consists of the solar unit housed in a 24-foot-long trailer stationed outside the studio. It utilizes 40 photovoltaic modules mounted in a 160-square-foot panel, which is mounted on the trailer roof. The solar panel tilts to track the sun by means of hydraulic lifts. Power runs from the panel to 300 lead/acid batteries inside the unit, which can store up to 1000 amp hours. The power travels from the batteries through two inverters, which convert the DC current to AC and provide two10-kilowatt lines of power. The unit's total output power is 200 amps.
Pumpkin Studios owner Gary Loizzo admits he was a bit skeptical of the prospect of a solar-powered recording session.
"The first thing I wanted to know was would it affect my equipment," says Loizzo. Now that he's seen how it works, Loizzo's support is whole-hearted.
"It's probably safer than Commonwealth Edison," he says, adding, "I'm very interested in getting a solar support system myself, for the studio. Its practicality would be proven over a period of years as long as power rates keep going up."