UPDATE – Since this article was posted in July 2012, the following camps have become 100% solar powered in our bid to operate more sustainably:
Kings Pool Camp
Kulala Desert Lodge
Odzala Camps (Lango and Ngaga)
The following camps are now fully solar powered - Mombo Camp, Xigera Camp, Banoka Bush Camp, Kalahari Plains Camp, DumaTau Camp, Kings Pool Camp, Kulala Desert Lodge and the Odzala Camps (Lango and Ngaga).
How do you build and run a luxury safari camp – in a remote location where no electricity or infrastructure exists – and yet limit your negative impact on the environment? Only with a lot of effort, investing a great deal, a dash of innovation and having the best systems in place to manage things like energy use, water use and waste, which then have to be managed very carefully.
Here’s how we’re doing things – reducing our energy use at our camps and thus the effects on global climate change – in the end allowing our guests a clear conscience during their stay with us – so that they are not contributing to damaging the pristine wilderness they have come to see in any way.
Getting fuel to our camps and the burning of fuel for the energy needs of our camps is very costly to both the business and potentially the environment, which is why we have turned to the sun for creating energy for camps to operate. We have now converted five camps in Botswana to 100% solar power, namely Mombo, Xigera, Abu, Kalahari Plains, and Banoka.
To understand the significance of this, an account of our two most recent solar installations will help clarify and visualise the positive impact and difference such an investment makes – not only the area in which the camp is situated – but to the planet as a whole.
Xigera Camp went 100% solar powered in July 2011. The solar system consisted of 130 panels, each capable of producing 230 watts, making a combined power capability of 30 kilowatts. Due to the remoteness of our camps, diesel powered generators are the most common source of energy. By switching to solar power at Xigera, we were able to save 18 023 litres of diesel fuel its first year! In relative terms, that means we saved 300 tanks of fuel in a standard 60L tank sedan car. When considering the carbon emissions associated with the saving of fuel, we are saving 47 tonnes of carbon emissions. This equates to 31 return flights from Johannesburg to London!
The other thing to consider here is the reduction of fuel deliveries that are required for Xigera. In the six months that the solar system had been operational, we had saved four fuel delivery trips to Xigera. Each trip emits 0.42 tonnes of carbon dioxide, saving an additional Johannesburg-London return flight. The benefits to the immediate environment of the Xigera Concession itself include the reduced impact from the large trucks delivering fuel into this sensitive landscape.
The Mombo solar system went live in March 2012 and is currently recognised as the largest stand-alone solar system in Botswana. This system is made up of 396 solar panels, each panel producing 230 watts of electricity, making a total of 90 kilowatts. In the year to come, we can expect to save 105 700 litres in diesel fuel, which equates to the filling of 1 817 fuel tanks in a standard 60L tank sedan car. In terms of carbon emissions, we can expect to reduce our emissions by 278 tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to – get this – 177 return flights from Johannesburg to London! That’s a lot of inflight movies!
When looking deeper into the supply chain, we will be able to reduce our fuel delivery trips by 21 trips annually. This will save an additional 4 830 litres of fuel or 81 tanks of fuel in a 60L car and save 13 tonnes of carbon dioxide or nine return flights from Johannesburg to London. Again this also means that that the sensitive landscape of the Mombo Concession in the Okavango Delta will be spared 21 delivery trips by a large truck, hence reducing the direct impact these heavy vehicles can have on the ecosystem.
So in summary and in a way that allows us to put such initiatives into perspective and understand why Wilderness invests so much into improving our Environmental Management initiatives, we have achieved the following by converting just two of our camps to solar power:
• Reduced our carbon emissions by 288 return flights from Johannesburg to London
• Reduced our fuel use by 2 117 tanks of a standard 60L car fuel tank
• Saved the Okavango of 25 fuel delivery trips by a large truck
In this way, we hope to keep the areas we share with our guests as pristine as possible, ultimately contributing positively to the state of our beautiful planet.