Luxury Safari Lodge Is First In Africa To Use Tesla Powerpack For Off-Grid Energy

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Written by Dana Sanchez

The luxury Singita safari lodge based in South Africa’s Kruger National Park will be the first in Africa to use Tesla Powerpack, a utility-scale rechargeable battery designed to store energy for large off-grid power systems, according to an Electrek report.

U.S.-based Tesla Energy already has projects in Africa, including several Powerwalls — home batteries that charge using electricity generated from solar panels. Powerwalls are installed at the gorilla reserve of the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Now the company is about to deliver its first Tesla Powerpack project on the continent, according to Elektrek.

Powerpack is Tesla’s rechargeable battery designed to store energy for off-grid and supplemental power systems, including large facilities and the electric grid, according to WhatIs.com.

Like factory– the battery for homes and small business use — Powerpack is based on lithium ion battery technology. The batteries’ modular design is adapted from the technology used in Tesla’s electric cars.

Amazon and Target are some of the major retailers testing Powerpack in their facilities.

Tesla has partnered with Singita, one of the largest African luxury safari lodge operators in the Kruger National Park.

Singita started in 1993 with one lodge — the Singita Ebony Lodge — built on the privately owned Sabi Sands game reserve adjacent to Kruger Park. The company has since grown to 12 eco-lodges and camps in three countries including Zimbabwe and Tanzania, according to KrugerPark.com. These include Singita Boulders Lodge, Kruger Park lodges Singita Lebombo and Sweni, Pamushana Lodge, Singita Sasakwa Lodge, and Singita Safari Lodges.

So how luxurious are they?

Day bed at Singita Lebombo lodge, Kruger Park. Photo: aworlddifferent.com
Day bed at Singita Lebombo lodge, Kruger Park. Photo: aworlddifferent.com

The 2016 year-round rate at Singita Lebombo is $1,165 per person per night, four-night minimum, according to LuxurySafariLodges.com.

Luxury and high tech

The Singita Powerpack project is being developed with SolarAfrica, a company offering solar energy solutions to off-grid and grid-tied commercial, industrial and residential energy users in Africa.

The Powerpack industrial unit is a cabinet-and-rack system that can be expanded by adding 100-kilowatt-capacity units for up to 500 kilowatt hours. Multiple units can be connected to create a capacity for 10 megawatt hours.

Singita’s system will be a large one with 31 Powerpacks, according to Electrek.

Tesla’s energy storage business is growing fast, Seeking Alpha reported.

The Tesla Gigafactory 1 is a lithium-ion battery factory in Nevada, U.S. that became operational in the first quarter of 2016. Production is ramping up and there’s a huge market appearing for cost-effective energy storage which can overcome the gap between renewable energy supply and energy demand.

In September the California Public Utilities Commission awarded the world’s largest lithium ion battery storage project to Tesla. The company will provide a 20 MW/80 MWh Powerpack system at the Southern California Edison Mira Loma substation.

Tesla recently announced several large Powerpack projects, but all were tied to the grid, according to Elektrek:

 (The Singita project) is a rare off-grid installation for Tesla and it will be an interesting opportunity to showcase the potential of the Powerpacks for off-grid systems with solar in remote areas.

In Africa, Tesla has plenty of opportunities to develop “minigrid” projects in remote areas, but it is also selling its Powerwalls and Powerpacks to homeowners and businesses in South Africa. The country’s electricity rates are set to increase by 9.4 percent this year and the unstable grid is prone to outages.

Powerwall offers independence from the utility grid and the security of an emergency backup, according to Tesla.com.

A typical Powerwall system includes solar panels, an inverter for converting electricity between direct and alternating current, a meter and a secondary circuit in backup applications that powers key appliances.

In April, Tesla installed its first Powerwall in South Africa, birthplace of CEO Elon Musk,  The Country Caller reported. Since then, the company has installed its residential battery systems in several local homes. Under the Singita contract, Tesla will install a Powerpack system in 2017 at an estimated cost of about $1.6 million.

In the U.S., Tesla is also deploying a massive storage system at Irvine Ranch Water District treatment facility.

On Oct. 28, Tesla and SolarCity plan to unveil new Tesla Energy products, including second-generation Powerwall and solar roof, Country Caller reported. Earlier this year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said there had been production delays.

Tesla has lowered the price of its Powerpack and commercial inverter significantly, Elektrek reported.