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Camp Glenorchy can now share its self-generated power surplus with its sister business, Mrs Woolly’s General Store, across the street – during the day, customers at the store can enjoy a fresh, hot flat white made with energy from the sun

Camp Glenorchy showcases energy-efficient future for electrical infrastructure

In a small rural township at the end of the road 45 km from Queenstown, the Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat has forged an innovative, fully integrated energy generation and management solution to serve its business needs, as well as support its host community’s energy resiliency aspirations.

Springing from a pioneering collaboration between Camp Glenorchy, a cross-disciplinary team of engineers, power and lines companies, consultants, manufacturers and private businesses over the past three years, the all-new comprehensive microgrid energy system is now online. It harnesses fully sustainable energy sources and manages supply, storage and demand, especially during peak periods, while setting the stage for increasing reliability and resiliency of the power supply to the local community.

The first of its kind in New Zealand, the innovative energy solution allows Camp Glenorchy to manage four energy sources onsite: solar, battery, generator and the grid. It combines photovoltaics (PVs), a state-of-the-art lithium battery system, sophisticated energy management systems, a microgrid controller, highly energy-efficient buildings and operations, a backup diesel generator, and digital communication with the local and regional power grid to create an independent onsite power microgrid serving 14 buildings operating behind a single meter.

Capable of running for extended periods without drawing any power from the local grid, the Camp Glenorchy power system can also draw upon its solar panels and large battery to provide for its own energy needs while freeing up – or even generating additional supply – for the town grid when local demand is high or lines are down.

Rising to rural community challenges

Glenorchy is a scenic rural community of just 350–400 people who host more than 100,000-plus visitors each year. Located more than 50 km from the nearest node of the regional electric grid, the township is served by a single electrical feed that is vulnerable to falling trees, wind, storms and the occasional driver, distracted by the stunning views of nearby Lake Wakatipu, running off the road into a power pole. The village is growing fast and visitor numbers continue to increase. There is a burgeoning demand for power from lines already constrained by limited capacity.

Glenorchy’s community vision is founded on resilience, including ensuring it has the right infrastructure to support residents, businesses and tourism without placing undue strain on the resident population. Community members share a commitment to sustainability and a deep respect for the natural environment.

To manage costs and meet its sustainability goals, as well as help mitigate local demand and extend the life of the existing infrastructure, the new fully integrated Camp Glenorchy microgrid system includes a number of features.

Net positive energy Camp Glenorchy has harnessed the power of the sun through an innovative blend of technologies to ensure it can meet the needs of guests, serve the needs of its host community, and support the existing local electrical infrastructure

It has one of the South Island’s largest solar farms, with 585 artfully designed and placed photovoltaic panels that can generate up to 190 kW at peak periods. A real-time energy management system (EMS) monitors 1600 power data points and 250 electrical sub-circuits across 14 buildings, two adjacent properties and the local grid, to control demand and align power generation, source, usage and storage to achieve net positive energy use over the period of a year.

A state-of-the-art Qinous lithium battery serves as a battery energy storage system (BESS) that can store up to 232 kWh of energy, allowing Camp Glenorchy to smooth its own power demand curve and, when needed, purchase supplementary electricity when community needs are at their lowest and electricity prices are least expensive.

A highly configurable microgrid and controller onsite manages the overall power systems and enables Camp Glenorchy to share power surpluses to its sister businesses – Mrs Woolly’s General Store and Mrs Woolly’s Campground – on an adjacent site, virtually eliminating the need to draw power from the local grid when solar power generation is at its peak or energy stored in the battery can meet the needs of both properties.

A fully integrated energy-efficient building and power control system manages all physical aspects of creating a warm, welcoming experience for guests, including a ground-source heat pump, rooftop solar water heating and hot water storage cylinders, hydronic underfloor heating, extensive natural lighting and use of presence-activated LED lighting, timed showers, active ventilation systems that maintain healthy levels of CO2 without triggering unnecessary heating cycles, and onsite electric vehicle (EV) charging for cars and campervans.

Finally, a custom-designed in-room app educates guests about the energy-saving features of their accommodation, and provides them with options to adjust their room temperature and shower length and see how their individual choices affect Camp Glenorchy’s ability to achieve its net positive energy objectives.

Rogier Simons, general manager of delivery for Vector Powersmart, the company which designed, constructed and commissioned the PV array and battery system, says: “This project provides a real-life example of how Vector Powersmart’s new integrated energy technology can be applied to reduce energy costs, increase self-sufficiency, and improve the resilience and utilisation of our existing electricity infrastructure.”

Shay Brazier, founder of Revolve Energy, which designed and commissioned the site’s control and monitoring systems, adds: “I am not aware of any other project in New Zealand that has applied energy technology as holistically as Camp Glenorchy.”

Serving business, community and NZ’s needs

Designing Camp Glenorchy’s leading-edge power generation, usage, storage and control system required its unusual combination of collaborators to address the needs of a wide variety of stakeholders.

Business benefits to Camp Glenorchy include the ability to generate and manage nearly all of its properties’ energy demand and supply onsite, allowing it to buy supplemental power, if needed, during low-demand hours at lower prices (for example, when accommodations are at full occupancy by guests, or when there is unusually heavy energy demand during the short cloudy days of winter). This is important for a business founded on giving 100% of its profits to benefit the local township through donations to the Glenorchy Community Trust. It also ensures that backup power is always available to the business, customers and guests, even during periodic or extended power outages.

Benefits to the community include reducing demand on the local grid during peak demand hours, resulting in higher quality and more reliable power supply to the township. By Camp Glenorchy generating sufficient energy to meet both its own needs and that of its sister businesses on adjacent properties, its new microgrid system provides part of the solution that will support the Glenorchy power infrastructure in meeting the increasing demands of growth for both residents and the township’s rapidly multiplying visitor numbers.

The large lithium battery, installed in the solar garden at Camp Glenorchy, allows excess energy generated by the sun to be stored for use at periods of high demand and low supply

To further benefit the community, Camp Glenorchy and Aurora Energy are exploring a trial to determine the potential of using Camp Glenorchy’s energy systems to switch off its demand from the local grid during power outages or times of peak demand, and instead supply its excess energy back into the Glenorchy community grid – in concert with local hydroelectric and large-scale diesel generators – to support the community’s self-reliance and resilience in times of need.

Aurora Energy’s general manager of asset management and planning Glenn Coates says: “Aurora Energy is pleased to be exploring new ideas on energy generation with the local community, engineering firms and local businesses. It’s important we work as a group to bring together the ideas and resources necessary to meet future energy demands.”

The larger picture

Paul Brainerd, co-founder of The Headwaters, parent company of Camp Glenorchy, says their goal has always been to serve the community, inspire creative thinking and to share what they’re learning. “With the integrated energy generation, storage and management system now fully online at Camp Glenorchy, we hope to further serve Glenorchy’s vision for community resiliency.”

The larger picture is one that holds potential for efficiently meeting the carbon-neutral energy needs of a growing New Zealand. Michael Richardson, demand response programme manager for Transpower, the national grid owner/operator, says, “We’re excited about the innovative integration of Transpower’s demand response programme with Camp Glenorchy’s energy generation, use, storage and control systems. We hope this project will showcase how businesses, network companies and energy users can all work together to make the most of the existing grid to efficiently meet the country’s growing power needs.”


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