Solar-Powered Boat Improves Tourist Experience at Adels Grove

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

Adels Grove is almost as remote as you can get, located near the Queensland/Northern Territory border 2000km from Brisbane, 1000km west of Innisfail and 340km north of Mount Isa, which is the nearest supply point. Adels Grove is situated 10km from Lawn Hill Gorge, Boodjamulla National Park and 50km from the World Heritage listed Riversleigh Fossil Fields. The major tourist attraction is Lawn Hill Gorge where on-water access was previously provided only by canoes.

However, canoes proved a difficult proposition for some of the elderly visitors and because petrol outboard-powered craft are ruled off limits by the Queensland Department of National Parks, the full Gorge experience was being missed by a number of tourists, with the only alternative a walk to Indarri Falls. The owners of Adels Grove had the opportunity to buy two 10-passenger tourist boats that were originally designed for operation with a 9.9hp petrol outboard motor. In consultation with the Department of 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 Q Energy Solutions Mount Isa to provide them with a solution. “We devised the solar system using eight Trina Solar panels arranged on the roof in two strings of four, connecting to Sun Xtender batteries,” Matt said. “The motor is a Torqeedo 4hp 48V electric motor replacing its petrol equivalent, a 9.9hp Honda four-stroke. 

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“As a result, visitors can now 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 percent and the boat is powered directly from the panels. “The battery storage is available if cruising above 4km/h (max speed 10km/h) on low-irradiance days with high cloud cover, at night or for any emergencies. “In operation it is very quiet, with just a low hum, which is important in such a tranquil setting.”
Adels Grove joint owner Michelle Low Mow said the solar-powered boat has dramatically improved how visitors enjoy the gorge, encouraged them to stay longer and as a result boosted the camping park’s 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 Lawn Hill Gorge,” Michelle said. “This is extremely important because the majority of our visitors are over 50 and a lot of them are over 80 years of age. “The boat cost us $60,000 and we charge $35 per head for the trip.”

Because over 3600 people made the journey last dry season, Adels Grove 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,” Michelle said. “Our visitor numbers have steadily increased from 4000 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 shop for travellers. “We are extending and are planning to build 10 more rooms over the summer period and these will all use solar power. “We plan to phase out the current diesel generating system over time.” For more information, go to www.adelsgrove.com.au

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