An eco-resort in remote western Queensland has invested in the development of two solar-powered boats to enhance the sight-seeing experience of its tourists while also protecting the natural environment and boosting its profits.
The Adel’s Grove resort, which is located 3,500km from Brisbane on the Queensland-Northern Territory border, was looking for a way to improve access to a major nearby tourist attraction, Lawn Hill Gorge, the waters of which had previously only been accessible by canoe – therefore rendering it inaccessible for many elderly or very young visitors.
The two 10-passenger solar boats were converted from their original design for operation with a 9hp petrol driven outboard motor – these are ruled off limits in the Gorge by Queensland National Parks – to the solar-powered version you can see in the images below.
Matt Brewster of Qenergy Solutions in Mt Isa worked with the resort’s owners to complete the conversion.
Brewster said his team devised the solar system using eight solar panels arranged on the boats’ roof in two strings of four, connecting to batteries.
The 4hp 48V electric motor has replaced its petrol equivalent, allowing the boat to cruise at 4km/h during daylight hours only, keeping the battery voltage above 53V DC to ensure they are kept at 100 per cent charge and the boat is powered directly from the panels.
“The battery storage is available if cruising above 4km/h (max speed is 10km/h) on low irradiance days with high cloud cover or at night or for any emergencies,” Brewster said.
The result is that visitors of all ages, shapes and sizes can now travel in a solar electric powered boat to get the “full experience” of the Lawn Hill Gorge from the water, rather than being restricted to the walk to Indarri Falls.
“In operation it is very quiet, just a low hum, which is important in such a tranquil setting,” Brewster said.
Adels Grove joint owner, Michelle Low Mow said the solar powered boat had dramatically improved their visitors’ enjoyment of the Gorge, encouraging them to stay longer and, as a result, boosting their profitability.
“Previously we could only offer canoes for visitors to row, or a short walk to see the falls, but now we can offer a quiet and comfortable one hour ride along the Lawn Hill Gorge,” said Low Mow.
“This is extremely important as the majority of our visitors are over fifty and a lot of them are over eighty years of age.
“The boat cost us $60,000 and we charge $35 per head for the trip and as over 3,600 made the journey last dry season we earned well over $100,000.
Low Mow says the resort now has plans to extend, building 10 new rooms that will be powered by solar.
“We plan to phase out the current diesel generating system over time,” she said.