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Solar power gives sustainable tourism a boost

8th Aug 2012

Tourism operators seem to be increasingly switching on to the benefits of solar power, as news trickles through that a Great Barrier Reef resort will be ramping up its already considerable solar technology capabilities.

Peter Gash, owner of Lady Elliot Eco Island Eco Resort off Bundaberg, has announced a raft of changes to boost solar power at the facility, following a similar project that led to a 70 per cent cut in diesel consumption four years ago.

Last month, Mackay councillor Theresa Morgan said the reef is critical to the region from economic, social and cultural perspectives - and it seems that people are listening.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) claims Lady Elliot is not the only service provider to be doing its part when it comes to sustainable tourism.

GBRMPA tourism and recreation director Chris Briggs said many businesses are working with local marine managers to reduce the adverse effects of visitors on the reef.

"A healthy Great Barrier Reef is vital for a healthy tourism industry and we commend operators who are taking action to minimise their impact on the marine environment," he explained.

Mr Gash stated that the existing solar system at the resort generated around 120kW hours of renewable energy per day, with a total capacity of 20kW.

The new changes will include adding 96 solar panels to buildings at the resort to double its capacity, while lowering Lady Elliot's diesel requirements to just 100 litres a day.

This is a marked difference to its earlier consumption, which was 550 litres each day when the resort was powered largely by generators.

And these changes aren't just affecting Lady Elliot's carbon footprint. Its owner suggests it is creating a completely different mind-set for people who are working or visiting the area.

"The fact that we are creating our own electricity has made staff and guests very conscious about the need to conserve power and not waste it. Apart from the obvious benefits for the Reef, this culture shift has been the most positive spin-off of all," Mr Gash said.

Having taken over the lease on the resort in 2005, the businessman partnered with the GBRMPA's Tourism Climate Change Action Group to address local concerns about the problems facing the reef.

This led him to do an energy audit - after which he decided to kick off a series of sweeping solar power changes in an effort to make his operations carbon neutral.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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