Bustard Head Lightstation Welcomes Solar Power

Bustard Head Lightstation Welcomes Solar Power

Imagine bringing a 153-year-old lightstation into the 21st century.

Locally owned and operated company, 1770 LARC! Tours have recently finished assisting Ergon Energy with a special project at the Bustard Head Lightstation – transitioning the power source from mains line power to a “Stand-alone power system” (SAPS), a renewable solar powered set-up.

1770 LARC! Tours owner and operator Neil Mergard said,

“This has been one of the most exciting projects to be involved in during our 27 years of operation. Not only to see an upgrade in the system but to be part of a more eco-friendly solution overall.”

The Bustard Head Lightstation is located, as the crow flies, 21km from the Town of 1770 and 76km from Gladstone. The headland is home to two light-keepers cottages, a historical museum, an engine room and most importantly the lighthouse tower. This life-saving light has been warning passing vessels of the deathly submerged rocks to the North since 1868. Because of its important job, it is imperative for the lightstation to always have a reliable power source.

The existing mains line runs through the wild Eurimbula National Park for 24kms. The line has been aging badly and is especially susceptible to bush fires and fallen trees. Unfortunately, in the case of a fault, it could take days to be reached for problem-solving and even longer for rectification. The terrain is untamed, unpredictable, unstable and more often than not, impassable.

Due to the remote location of Bustard Head and the above implications, the lightstation was nominated by Ergon Energy to trial a Stand-alone power system (SAPS). The newly installed solar system is completely off-grid and charges battery banks that hold enough power to last three days. The three days include full functionality of the lighthouse light, as well as the cottage facilities. As this system is still in trial mode, a temporary diesel generator has been installed as a backup in case of a malfunction.

The logistics of this project was another hurdle to be jumped. With no roads leading to Bustard Head, the Coral Sea to the right and National Park to the left, how on earth do you get tonnes of expensive and fragile gear to the site?

While lighter supplies could be shipped by boat from Gladstone to the shore and manually carried to the top of the steep headland, the remainder required a more specific, amphibious mode of transport.

“We knew when we were approached that we would 100% support this project, we modified our vessels from passenger carriers to cargo haulers and carried up to 5 tonnes of equipment at a time. It was a great opportunity to test and prove the robust LARC capabilities once again,” said Neil.

The project started in November 2020 and was completed by February 2021. Ergon continues to check and monitor the system regularly and collect important data to assist with the advancements of this alternative energy option.

To visit Bustard Head Lightstation with 1770 LARC! Tours on a full-day tour, see https://1770larctours.com.au/