O&L Leisure Today - September 2018
Chobe Water Villas is located in the far north eastern corner of Namibia’s on the banks of the Chobe River. The area around the lodge is prone to yearly flooding and hence infrastructure like roads and power lines to the lodge are non-existent. To provide our esteemed guests with a luxury experience deep in the bush, an uninterrupted electricity supply to operate Chobe Water Villas is a definite requirement. This has been supplied since opening in 2016 by means of a small solar plant and a diesel generator. The solar plant was not efficient enough and required the generator to run almost 24 hours per day and running up a huge fuel bill at the end of every month.
With the O&L value “Naturally today for tomorrow” in mind and also our vision to reduce our carbon footprint by 20% in 2019 - we had to critically re-assess the situation we found ourselves in. O&L Leisure’s value is to host all our guests in a true Namibian style with warmth and sincerity, whilst offering a genuine sense-of-place experience. This can only be achieved if one has the right tools – and stable electricity supply is a basic must-have. Something clearly had to be done and hence it was decided to partner up with O&L Energy to invest in a state of the art solar farm and storage system which would help us in our endeavor to achieve all these goals.
What started off as just another solar farm project, turned out to be quite challenging. Due to the lack of proper roads and otherwise flooded plains all around – all equipment and construction materials, including the heavy 5 ton energy storage system, had to be transported to Chobe Water Villas on road via Botswana and then made the final dash to the construction site on a barge over the Chobe River. At the end of July this year construction was complete and the new solar plant was up and running. The Chobe Water Villas solar farm is different to other O&L Energy solar projects, in the extent that there is no local grid which can be used to integrate with the solar farm, to supply the demand even when the sun is not shining. Hence an energy storage facility also needed to be introduced. O&L Energy together with their partner Cronimet from Germany provided us with a state of the art all-inclusive solution.
The old 75 kW peak solar panel farm we had was doubled to 150 kW peak, i.e. going from 300 solar panels to almost 600 solar plant. This now means that we can operate the lodge with the battery system on uninterrupted power supply for between 6-10 hours. The large diesel back-up generator was exchanged for two smaller generators. These will be used once the battery power runs out to supply the lodge demand, as well as charge the batteries again. The smaller generators are much more efficient and also have better redundancy as there will be a second back-up generator when one does not function properly. Currently the lodge only requires the generators to run for an hour or two early in the mornings before the sun rises – compared to almost 24 hours per day previously.
The entire system, from solar panels, inverters, batteries and generators are controlled by an intelligent controller – making the whole system automatic. The entire system can also be monitored and operated off-site via an internet link from anywhere in the world.