EMPIRE OF THE SUN: Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort
EMPIRE OF THE SUN: Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort

Sun done, wind next power source for resort

A MORE than $1 million investment has been "worth its weight in gold" for Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort.

It's on track to source 100% of its energy from renewables after adding 42 solar panels to its supply.

General manager Peter Gash said the resort's 475 solar panels, which generate 1300kW of power, makes it one of the biggest privately owned solar systems in Australia.

"Yet we get cranky at ourselves and wish we could go faster, but in 2008 we burnt 550 litres of diesel per day, that's 200,000 litres of diesel per year, costing us $1 a kilowatt hour to make power," Mr Gash said.

"Since then we've evolved at 475 panels and burning about 70 litres per day and our power is costing us less than 20 cents per kilowatt hour."

Describing it as the best thing the resort has ever done, Mr Gash said it's on track to being entirely powered by renewable sources in three years.

"In a total of 12 years we would have gone from such a massive draw of power to almost 100% sourced by renewable energy," he said.

"It makes me struggle to understand why governments can't do something similar," he said.

He estimates about $1 million has been spent on the solar system but the resort has saved $2 million.

Their first venture into solar in 2008 was with a system worth $600,000 that would save the company $200,000 in power bills.

"It's a transition; we watch it, see how it's all working, and then we take another step," Mr Gash said.

"One of the big advantages is that we're educating and inspiring others too."

Nine years on, Mr Gash said their 457 solar panels and structure are worth more than $1 million.

Next on the cards is investment in wind power to take advantage of breezy nights on the Southern Great Barrier Reef island.

Mr Gash said wind power could be the solution to the island not having access to renewable energy at night.

Currently the resort runs a diesel generator once a week and uses battery power to supply the extra power needed.

Mr Gash said the transition did not cause any job losses, with workers who once operated the diesel power station, now upgrading and maintaining solar panels.

"There's an awful lot of politics involved (in the energy debate)," he said.

"We need to be satisfied that no matter what sort of weather pattern comes along, we need to be able to provide our guests with power.

"Thus far we have done that, we have sufficient redundancy, which is our generators which are always on standby."

In 2004 Mr Gash first realised the toll that climate change had, with coral bleaching tarring the Great Barrier Reef.

The following year he and wife Amy secured the 30-year lease for Lady Elliot Island Eco Tourism Resort with the plan of transitioning to renewable power.

"We're going to hand it on to future generations in a better condition than how we found it. That's our goal."