By Anders Lorenzen
The term off the grid has become increasingly popular as households and businesses instal solar and clean energy technologies. When installed capacity meets battery storage then off the grid living becomes a possibility.
In Chile, two German companies are moving into the tourism industry by installing a solar and battery system at the Tierra Hotels’ luxury Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa. The two companies, Kraftwerk and Qinous, worked together to allow the exclusive resort in the Atacama Desert to completely switch its diesel generators off during the day and part of the night.
Located in the stunning surrounding of the Chilean Atacama Desert – the world’s driest desert, it is far away from the nearest electricity networks. Therefore the hotel had to rely on expensive and inefficient diesel generators. That was until 2013 when Kraftwerk installed a PV power plant at the site. This prompted the resort to rely less on the diesel generators – at times the solar panels supplied half of their electricity needs, leading to around 15% of savings.
For that project, Tierra Hotels was named as the ‘Most Sustainable Tourism Company in Chile’ for its use of solar as well as organic architecture.
Solar, though, is intermittent and only available during the day, therefore to ensure that the hotel got more energy from their solar, the PV plant was expanded and implemented with a highly efficient lithium-ion battery storage and smart energy management solution. Because of those extra upgrades, the resort can now operate on 100% solar during 8-9 hours of daylight each day plus a few hours at night.
The upgrade presented huge diesel savings – of 15% to 60% annually – as significantly reducing running costs, carbon footprint and air pollution. It also enhanced the experience of the guests as they are no longer disturbed by the sound of the diesel generators. By no longer relying so heavily on diesel supply lines, Tierra Atacama resort also ensures it is not as vulnerable to extreme weather events like flash floods – set to become increasingly likely due to climate change.
“One of our core values in Tierra Hotels is the protection of our environment,” said Miguel Purcell, Executive Director of Tierra Hotels. “That’s why we want to provide the best experience and service with minimal disruption. We’ve saved a significant amount of diesel over the past couple of years and have substantially decreased our carbon footprint. The experience we’ve had with running and maintaining the PV plant has encouraged us to take yet another step forward.”