In 2005 The Premises Studios in London built Europe's first solar powered recording studio out of 80% reclaimed and recycled materials, a state of the art facility with a 100% secure and stable energy flow. Their decision was partly for environmental concerns but was also based on solid business reasoning – to increase trade and reduce running costs.
To determine the system requirements The Centre for Sustainable Energy conducted an energy audit, and the flat roof and photovoltaic (PV) system were added by Chelsfield Solar during the addition of new studio space. The capital cost was £20k, half of which was funded by a government grant.
Energy efficiency was built in: the main SSL mixing desk and the air-conditioning units are low energy and the high level of sound insulation required by studios means that there is no need for heating, even in the middle of winter.
The UK government’s October 2008 decision to incentivise renewable energy producers via ‘feed-in tariffs’ may mean The Premises could halve their payback period which was initially calculated at about 10 years. After this their PV system will turn into a profit stream from the excess energy they sell back to the grid. The Premises began actively campaigning to raise the profile of the feed-in tariffs in 2009, with Lily Allen offering support for the cause:
"Having worked at the Premises' solar powered recording studio I have experiences how clean and green renewable energy is. I fully support giving people a renewable energy reward for the power they generate. It's good to be green!"
... and the Klaxons also voiced the importance of The Premises' green energy initiatives:
"We're proud that we back the We Support Solar campaign for feed-in tariffs. We use The Premises solar powered recording studio and we know how important solar power is to the delivery of a low acrbon UK."
The shift to solar has generated a higher public profile for Premises and new business. Premises has worked on successful campaigns with Friends of the Earth and is now widely seen as a first-choice studio for environmentally aware recording artists; the likes of Lily Allen, Hot Chip, Bloc Party, Alphabeat and the Klaxons love the place and have produced carbon neutral recordings there.
In 2010 The Premises started a bee keeping project on the studio roof with The Golden Company, an organisation working with disadvantaged young people, and their latest campaign with Suggs from Madness, launched in 2011, is raising awareness of the problems caused by declining bee populations.
While an individual company can become a sustainable success story, Premises recognise that critical mass for sustainability is the real goal. This will come only when businesses link up to create green supply chains, and proper "joined up" thinking becomes not only possible but inevitable.