The specialist solar team at ZEN Energy designed and installed a 10.26kW (54 panel) system at Outback Spirit Tours’ wilderness lodge in remote Western Australia. The system, which is mounted on a custom-built frame fixed to the ground and operates off-grid, has far exceeded expectations, covering nearly all the resort’s power requirements.
Outback Spirit runs small group premium tours of the Australian Outback. Using luxury all-terrain coaches, the tour company is able to take visitors to remote locations not accessible to conventional tour buses.
In 2011, the company built its own 5 star wilderness lodge on the stunning Mitchell Plateau, 600km north of Broome. From here, tourists are able to visit the nearby mighty Mitchell Falls. The resort features 14 upmarket cabins, each with an en-suite, and an architecturally designed restaurant.
Outback Spirit Tours needed a solution to power the resort’s accommodation and restaurant. The nearest powerline to the resort is a 10 hour drive away, which made connecting to the electricity grid impossible. Solar energy was seen as the most environmentally-friendly way to generate power.
ZEN Energy was awarded the project because out of several solar companies researched by Outback Spirit Tours, it was easily the standout.
With minimal roof space on the cabins and restaurant, ZEN Energys’ solution was to design a fixed ground solar system, which would operate off-grid.
In July 2011, ZEN sent five installers to the remote resort to install a 10.26kW solar energy system, mounted on a custom-built frame. The unit to store the power generated by the 54 panel system is self-contained in an insulated and secure enclosure. It includes safety devices to protect wiring and intelligent electronics, ensuring quality and power production is maximised and metered.
The biggest challenge for ZEN to deliver the project was transporting the equipment and materials from Adelaide to the resort, in the Kimberley, taking into consideration the long distances and changes in weather conditions. ZEN’s expert staff monitored weather conditions and liaised closely with the caretaker at the resort, to ensure the journey to install the solar system was problem free.
How the system works
Three 5kW ZEN Island interactive inverter chargers operate in three phase, to supply 15kW of mains quality power to the resort. The chargers are linked to a 10,000 TriPower three phase inverter, fed from the solar array, to manage a high capacity battery bank. This includes the ability to auto-interface with a backup generator a Cummins Power Generation 55kVA three phase unit.
At night and at other times of low sunlight, the system automatically starts the generator, which then supplies the load and charges the battery bank at the same time.
The battery storage is made up of 48 x 900AH 2V cells, which are connected as two 48V banks in parallel. These supply the resort with 34kWh of overnight storage at 50 per cent state of discharge.
The batteries, electronics and switchgear are enclosed in a custom-built and double-insulated building. The building has convection ventilation to minimise the housekeeping power requirements for the site.
The challenges of transporting equipment long distances in changing weather did not stop ZEN delivering and installing the system on time and on budget.
The system, which is capable of generating about 16,000kWh of electricity each year, has far exceeded expectations. It was initially hoped it would cover 50 per cent of the resort’s power usage. The system is covering 90 per cent of power requirements when the resort is occupied and 100 per cent when it is unoccupied.
|System size||10.26kW Fixed Ground Solar Unit combined with 48V dry lead acid 3 phase batter system|
|System configuration||Solar system paired to battery storage system with diesel generator support|
|System output per day||60kWh|
|Energy consumption (average)||BATTERY: 38kWh per day, 50% battery discharge level SOLAR SYSTEM: 45kWh per day|
|C02 savings (per annum)||30 tonnes|