Ami Vitale, Hippo
A hippopotamus at Loisaba Conservancy. Pic credit: Ami Vitale

In East Africa, a wildlife research and ecotourism conservancy has recently installed an off-grid microgrid, which has since replaced a heavy duty diesel generator.

The Loisaba Conservancy, comprising of 56,000 acres of land, will use this clean power system to power a commercial laundry, swimming pool, kitchen, business services, lighting, cooling, and other facility loads.

Conservancy installs microgrid system

According to the manufacturer of Aqueous Hybrid Ion batteries and energy storage systems, Aquion Energy, the microgrid, which was funded, designed, installed, and integrated by SolarAfrica, consists of two independent systems, each of which has 106kWh of Aquion batteries paired with a 37kW solar array.

The conservancy CEO, Tom Silvester, said: “We embrace the idea of living lightly on the earth, minimising our carbon footprint and maintaining a clean, safe, and sustainable environment.

“The use of Aquion saltwater batteries in tandem with SolarAfrica’s solar powered solutions is perfectly aligned with our approach to preserving nature, enabling us to generate power from the sun and store it for later use.”

"At Loisaba, the solar array powers various loads from the facilities and pools, while also charging the Aquion batteries during the day. The batteries are discharged to provide power at night and during periods of cloud cover.

"This solution greatly reduces the use of noisy, high-emissions diesel generators, which had previously been the primary power source for the property. The result is a new standard in eco-friendliness and sustainability for ecotourism lodges in Africa," the battery manufacturer explained in a statement.

The manufacturer added that those lodges that are located off-grid have traditionally used diesel generators, often in combination with lead-acid batteries, which are known for their toxicity and relatively short lifespan under deep cycling and partial state of charge usage.

Blending in with surroundings

Dr Kobus van Tonder, project manager of SolarAfrica, said: “The outcome of this project has made many significant changes to the way we use energy and how we perceive it. We noticed how the lodge quickly descended into a blissfully quiet state, as the constant humming of generators were turned off.

"Another great benefit of switching to solar energy, and storing it effectively, is that it’s now significantly cheaper than running diesel generators, which also means that the consumption of diesel decreases, as does the carbon footprint.”

Van Tonder added: “Battery technology is constantly evolving. This project created a lot of interest amongst the tour operators and investors alike."

Tim Poor, chief commercial officer of Aquion Energy, highlighted that the conservancy now plans to reduce diesel consumption by 95% and save 53 tonnes of CO2 per year.

The Loisaba Conservancy is effectively operated with a low carbon footprint and is continuously striving to reduce energy consumption even further.

 

Featured image: Ami Vitale

 

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