Solar Power Replacing Diesel Generated Electricity
Sails Ashore & Kowhai Lane both solar powered
Ulva Island Landing
As Close to Pristine as any place in New Zealand the public has access to
Sails Ashore Vegetable Garden
The Power of Compost
Our Stewart Island Environment
………… And where we are in it
Our aim is to give our guests the best possible experience with the least possible impact on the local community and environment.
We are committed to sustainable tourism and a sustainable lifestyle.
Stewart Island presents us with an ever-changing cycle as the seasons progress.
It always annoys us that we can only share the current season with our guests and so they miss out on the special things that happen over the rest of the year.
So we have decided to have an occasional diary of the things we notice around the village and on Ulva Island.
Stewart Island Environment
Just living in this world has an impact on the environment around us. We guess the trick is to keep our impact as small as possible. That’s not necessarily easy on Stewart Island as the Island is to such a large extent dependant on non renewable energy sources. The Island runs almost literally on diesel fuel, firstly for transport to and from the mainland, secondly the Islands electric power is diesel generated as there are no suitable rivers for hydro power and thirdly we use diesel for all our domestic hot water and central heating as it is the most cost efficient method available to us.
But this has now changed, at least for Sails Ashore and Kowhai Lane Lodges, as both are Solar Powered
Sails Ashore has two separate arrays… one 7kw, the other 3kw
Each has is own dedicated inverter feeding our home and also a 24kw Lithium Ion storage battery. We are now completely “off grid”. In the event of several “dark” days we can top up our batteries with our generator set. Our historic consumption averages around 20 units per day over summer, and 15kw/day in winter. Sails Ashore is fully electric for cooking, having an induction hob and an electric oven
Last winter I built a solar logger to record what we might expect in the way of solar energy, and from that I decided there might be 2 or at most 3 days a month over our winter period when we would “run dry”, and need a couple of hours gen set top up.. That was based on a 7kw array. We decided after a month of running this first array me might be just a little bit “light” and so added another 3kw. A couple of hours of bright sunshine being enough to bring the system up to full battery capacity. And even on a dull day we are producing around 2.5Kw which is enough to keep the system happy. This extra capacity also allows us to use excess generated capacity to heat our domestic hot water. This of course significantly reduces our diesel fuel consumption in our hot water furnace. Presently I have to monitor this and switch the electric hot water on manually when battery storage reaches 95%. And off again when the battery drops below this figure. I’ve found a programable voltage sensitive relay online, and when that arrives will be able to fully automate this hot water switching. I’ve been monitoring our hot water boilers run time, and so far have been showing a diesel saving of over 50%. Once automated and as we fine tune the boiler system I expect that to drop further.
Installing the second array on Sails Ashore Roof
For fire safety we built a small shed to house the batteries and electronics
The heart of the beast
Red units are solar inverters and the yellow the battery manager and inverter.
The white units are the 24kw Li battery system
Panels on Kowhai Lane roof
Management. What we see.
This is our 7kw array production graph at midday, 27th March
Management. What we see.
This is our 3kw array production graph at midday, 27th March
Management. What we see.
Battery Storage 27th March. Showing a charge of 5.95 kw.
Management. What we see.
We can access this overview via any internet connection
Our daughter Anne was so impressed with our first full months electricity bill once we had commissioned the system she decided not to wait until spring but to have 5kw installed on Kowhai Lane Lodge as soon as possible. And it was installed by Tansley Electrical when they put our second array up. Kowhai Lane is quite different to Sails Ashore in that it is “Grid Tied” Feeding excess electricity into the local power system, and drawing from the system when demand exceeds P/V supply. This makes sense, as there are significant periods when the property is empty, both during the day when guests are out enjoying the Island, and of course when the house is unoccupied.
The timing of the project was quite fortunate, as Tansley’s manager told us when we ordered we had the last of a shipment, and the next would be 22% higher cost.
Sails Ashore and the Stewart Island Environment
Sails Ashore was designed to make full use of passive solar energy. The sun room faces north and with full double glazed windows towards the sun and full wall, ceiling and underfloor insulation through out ensures we keep heating costs to a minimum. . Stewart Island is a bit marginal for solar water heating, but newer technology is very interesting and may now make it viable. Quite apart from the conservation aspect of fuel minimisation the rapidly increasing costs of liquid fuel certainly focuses our thinking on efficient use of energy.
We sort all domestic waste and recycle wherever possible. A large compost bin and worm farm deals with garden and food waste and also contributes to our organic garden and glass house fertility. In addition we collect lawn clippings from the local community lawn mower, this in total turns into around 6 cubic metres annually. We grow as much of our vegetable requirements as possible.
We are now changing to LCD light bulbs , replacing even our older fluorescent bulbs, as although the energy savings are minimal, the vastly superior life expectancy makes this a “no brainer” . We have timers and dimmers on appropriate circuits.
All our domestic water is collected from our roof, stored in large tanks, UV treated and micro filtered before use, exactly as “Stewart Island Rain” bottled drinking water is prepared. And Stewart Island Rain won NZ’s boutique bottled drinking water competition so it’s pretty good water to drink.
Facing north, with sheltering trees to the south and west and full state of the art insulation minimises heating costs
Iris and her worm farm. Apart from onions and citrus which can kill the worms, all our kitchen scraps end up here.
Fresh Compost and worms
We make around 6 cu metres each year.
Planting out our glasshouse
Tomatoes and grapes would just be a dream without a glasshouse.
Rakiura Environment Trust
Like many places in New Zealand, Stewart Island has it’s share of introduced mammalian pests. In particular rats, opossums and feral cats are to be found around the village, as well as the wider Island environment. A local trust has taken on the task of trapping and poisoning these pests within the village and in particular the Ackers Point area.
The result has been quite impressive with so far this year almost a 1000 rats being trapped. Stewart Island Robins have been reintroduced to Ackers Point and the ultimate aim is to release Saddlebacks. Neither species can survive with rats.
We have noticed and with our guests enjoy increased bird life in our garden. The work of the trust can only improve this for the enjoyment of all.
As well as bird life we are noticing a significant increase in small plants such as orchids within the trapped area. Many of which are difficult to find further back in the forest. We service one line of some 30 odd traps based around Observation Rock and down as far as the Post Office.
Quite apart from the bird life rats are a problem for any householder and as well can do significant damage in a vegetable garden. This winter we have not noticed any rat sign for the first time ever around Sails Ashore or Kowhai Lane and “our” trap has caught only two.
The trust is funded entirely by donations and although there is a paid staff member, much of the work is done by volunteers. We have post cards by Gilbert van Reenen on sale and all profits from this go to the trust and in addition many guests ask to make a cash donation. Thus helping enable the work continue.
Both Kowhai Lane & Sails Ashore are honoured to each sponsor 5 hectares of Habitat Restoration
The trust has commissioned a study to investigate the possibility of eradicating rats, feral cats and opossums from all of Stewart Island.
It makes very interesting and thought provoking reading and with the success of Ulva Island showing the way is perhaps the future for Stewart Island.
Sails Ashore now produces 100 % of our electrical needs, and have cut our non renewable heating fuel usage to around 20% of pre solar.
Kowhai Lane is "Grid Tied" and exports excess electricity to the local grid.
Both have significantly reduced our carbon footprint
We are Fully Vaccinated