Best Environmental Impact Award - 2019

Implementation that integrates PV, Storage, Energy Management, any other associated tech, for best environmental outcomes


Winner: Sunshine Solar for YHANZ

YHA have an ongoing commitment to reduce their carbon footprint and in June of 2015 sought tenders for the hostel in Franz Josef for the installation of a solar power system to help in this initiative. Following initial discussions it became clear a wider opportunity existed to improve energy efficiency across the whole network. As a result, a more holistic approach to reducing carbon and gaining energy efficiencies was taken. Now an ongoing project, YHA has work completed at four of the larger YHA hostels, with future audits and system upgrades planned.

Sunshine Solar was chosen as the engineering and supply company based on Sunshine Solar’s comprehensive approach of identifying where the greatest needs, efficiencies and cost savings could be attained. Adding more energy by way of solar systems to the hostel does not necessarily improve efficiency, rather it displaces the spend and the objective was to achieve both renewable energy supply but also more efficient energy usage.

The project was therefore evolved from reducing carbon emission into also reducing energy load and at the same time making the YHA hostels more comfortable for guests.

Once a year each hostel is audited by Sunshine Solar to monitor gains (and losses) and to look for further improvements. In each audit (including initial site audits) Carbon emitters and areas of concern for high energy are identified and interviews with hostel management and feedback from guests are analysed, along with good science from experienced energy consultants.

The costs from the audit identify the ROI and the potential carbon reduction, so this provides the YHA Property team with all the information to enable an informed decision of future investment.

The initial objective of carbon reduction and cost efficiency has been met and now the commitment continues with where else can we help reduce carbon. For example, one of the next initiatives is adding an EV charger to remote hostels. At the time of writing, EV chargers have been installed at YHA Te Anau, YHA Aoraki/Mt Cook and YHA Franz Josef. This means that areas that were difficult in New Zealand to reach with a 100% EV car have now been made accessible.

The positive effects on day to day activities can be seen in every YHA Hostel. On the inside door of each hostel room is a small poster about the sustainability actions in each hostel, in the showers and toilets there are different but similar small posters and the YHA website is full of stories on how we are trying to be sustainable. Youth travellers are highly attuned to the current climate crisis we face and there is growing evidence that authentically sustainable businesses are sought after by young travellers. The values of sustainability are a strong motivator for staff engagement and recruitment.

Guest comfort has been enhanced by the initiative resulting in warmer hostel rooms, less

condensation giving the rooms a fresher dryer feel. Environmental education groups stay at some of the hostels and run “learning outside of the classroom” activities associated with the sustainability practices. YHA believes that through education it can encourage travellers to engage with and follow its low carbon values.


PV installers on-roof Franz-Josef solar installation with moving panels Front view of YHA hostel with solar panels

More about Sunshine Solar


Runner-up: Revolve Energy and Vector Powersmart for Camp Glenorchy

Camp Glenorchy won runner-up “Best Environmental Impact Award” because from start to finish minimising its environmental footprint completely has been the primary objective. 

Opened in March 2018, Camp Glenorchy has been designed, built and operated in line with the philosophy and principles of the living building challenge (LBC), recognised as the most stringent environmental design certification in the world. For the first half of 2019 Camp Glenorchy generated twice its energy use and used half the energy per guest as a similar facility.

Glenorchy is a very isolated area, 45km of single electricity line in overhead in an alpine environment supply the town. Consequently the site experiences regular power outages and power quality issues. Camp Glenorchy is a significant site within the community and has been designed as a Civil defence hub to assist the community to manage major natural disasters such as earthquakes, flooding and storms.

In the pursuit of continued improvement 2019 was monumental as Camp Glenorchy made a number of significant improvements including the addition of 130kVA, 232kWh Qinous lithium battery system (BESS) and an energy management system (EMS) These recent additions round out the solution into a completed integrated site that achieves exemplary levels of energy efficiency, comfort and innovation. In addition the site now has the ability to interact in a meaningful way with the local grid.

Key innovations:

  1. Micro grid, 2 adjacent sites (Camp Glenorchy and Mrs Woollys) with 15 building and a campsite operating behind a single meter. The structural allows shared use of onsite generation and energy storage.
  2. The microgrid controller achieves a high level of PV self use increasing return on investment to the property through load shifting and ensures backup of the site for extended outages, utilising the lowest cost energy source and balancing power flows.
  3. The EMS receives control period demand signals from Auroa and sets the operating limits of grid import to ensure no demand charges are incurred by site.
    1. Provides a user interface to allow staff to respond to Transpower demand events in order to receive payment for grid support at critical times.
    2. Actively monitors the battery SOC in off grid mode and hierarchically sheds 

Load to avoid where possible use of the generator. An interface is provided to allow staff to override automatic settings to suit operational requirements.

  1. Extensive energy monitoring of over 250 electrical sub circuits for, with a live dashboard for optimisation and energy management.
  2. Extensive building controls make significant contribution to achieving the 50% reduction in energy use when compared to other similar facilities. The completely integrated solution controls all key systems including ground source heat pumps, solar water heating, space heating, lighting, ventilation, showers, irrigation. The system is also integrated with the site booking system ensuring that the rooms are only heated when a check-in is imminent, reducing standing losses.
PV site Camp Glenorchy PV solar farm with cabin signage PV solar garden


More about Revolve Energy and Vector Powersmart

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