Safari Lodges and Solar-Plus-Storage: Perfect Bedfellows

Safari lodges are normally located in pristine nature, far away from civilization. They are often not connected to the national grid and generate power on-site using diesel generators. Diesel power is flexible, but also has various disadvantages such as has high costs, partly due to transport, and a significant ecological impact, mainly CO2-emissions, local hazardous exhaust gases, and noise. In solar-diesel hybrid applications, solar is combined with diesel generators for reducing diesel consumption. The new THEnergy-IPS report, “Hybrid Solar Mini-grids for Remote Safari Lodges in Africa” shows that as a result, costs are reduced, and both noise and emission levels are improved.

Air conditioning, fans, fridges, freezers, dishwashers, washing machines, pumps, lighting, television, radio, phone and camera charging, and heating are among the main sources of energy consumption at safari lodges. Power is needed around the clock, with a peak during the middle of the day and in the early evening. Typical safari guests are rather demanding regarding stable electricity supply. Although green efforts by safari lodges are supported, normally guests are not willing to accept restrictions. A reliable and robust power supply is a basic requirement for safari lodges. Studies show that it contributes to high customer satisfaction. Hybrid controllers or energy conversion units are the key components for efficiently synchronizing the load with various power sources and energy storage, and will ensure a reliable power supply. In addition, solar power is often 50 percent (or more) cheaper than diesel power at remote safari locations.

Energy conversion units like IPS’s EXERON solution have been successfully used for military and telecom applications, two sectors with extremely high requirements regarding reliability. Customers honor hot-swappable, plug & play approaches, which save significant costs during installations and for maintenance — particularly in remote locations. The power demand of game reserves might change over time, e.g. through lodge extensions or when their vehicle fleet is electrified. Modular approaches allow for adding additional solar and storage capacity at a later stage. The share of renewable energy can be increased for fully powering lodges with solar or wind energy plus storage 24/7.

There is an excellent fit between safari lodges on the one hand, and solar and energy storage applications on the other. The first safari lodge operators like Wilderness Safaris, &beyond, Singita, and Kambaku have turned to powering their lodges with solar and storage. The biggest off-grid installation can reach a size of more than 400 kWp solar and 3.2-MWh battery storage. Safari lodges are a very attractive target segment for solar and energy storage companies.

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Hillig founded THEnergy in 2013. THEnergy is a specialized business consultancy that focuses on innovation in the energy sector, such as microgrids, solar-diesel hybrid, energy storage and hydrogen. THEnergy has developed sophisticated tools to support its clients in product launches and growth strategies. During the last six years, THEnergy has consulted leading multinational utilities, oil and gas companies, and start-ups regarding energy strategy, due diligence, market intelligence, and communication. THEnergy combines Hillig’s previous experiences working at Alstom Power in conventional energy generation and at Innotech Solar. At the beginning of his career, Hillig consulted leading companies from the transport, telecommunication and construction sectors.

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