Solar powered boat improves tourist experience and boosts the bottom line

A solar powered boat at a remote western Queensland eco tourist resort has improved the experience enjoyed by visitors and boosted the bottom line.

Adels Grove is almost as remote as you can get being 3,500 km from Brisbane on the Queensland/Northern Territory border, 1,200 km west from Innisfail or 340 km north from Mount Isa, which is their nearest supply point.

It is located 10 km from the Lawn Hill Gorge, Boodjamulla National Park and 50 km from the World Heritage Riversleigh Fossil fields.

IMG 6941 - Lawn Hill GorgeTheir major tourist attraction is the Lawn Hill Gorge itself and previously on-the-water access was only by means of canoes. However, this was difficult for some of their elderly visitors and as petrol outboard powered craft ruled off limits by Queensland National Parks the full Gorge experience was being missed by a number of tourists as the only alternative was to walk to Indarri Falls.

The owners of Adels Grove had the opportunity to purchase two 10 passenger tourist boats that had been originaly designed for operation with a 9hp petrol driven outboard motor. In consultation with Queensland National Parks it was agreed that a solar version of the pontoon would be acceptable to operate within the Gorge.
The owners of Adels Grove approached Matt Brewster of Qenergy Solutions of Mount Isa to provide them with a solution.

Matt said: “We devised the solar system using eight Trina Solar panels arranged on the roof in two strings of four, connecting to SunXtender batteries. The motor is a Torqueedo 4hp 48V electric motor replacing its petrol equivalent, a Honda 4 stroke 9.9. As a result visitors can now the travel in a solar electric powered boat to see the scenic majesty of the Gorge from the water.

“The boat cruises at 4km/h during daylight hours only and as a result the battery voltage remains above 53V DC ensuring the batteries are maintained at 100 per cent 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.

“In operation it is very quiet, just a low hum, which is important in such a tranquil setting,” Matt Brewster said.

IMG 6947 - Lawn Hill GorgeAdels Grove joint owner, Michelle Low Mow said that the solar powered boat has dramatically improved how their visitors could enjoy the Gorge, encouraged them to stay longer and as a result boosted 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. 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.

“Adels Grove has been operating as a tourist facility for over 40 years, we have been the custodians since 2001 and we are open all year round. Our visitor numbers have steadily increased from 4,000 to 28,000 a year and we offer accommodation and camping facilities, as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner at the restaurant and fuel and a store for travellers.

We are extending and are planning to build ten more rooms over the summer period and these will all use solar power and we plan to phase out the current diesel generating system over time,” Michelle Low Mow said.

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