Generac's Backup Solution Powers the World's First Off-the-Grid Camping Lodge
At Herkimer Diamond Mines, a KOA Kampground in New York's Mohawk Valley, a prototype genset helps campers vacation in sustainable comfort.
A new premium propane generator set from Generac is keeping company with some interesting green products in an offbeat location: the former Herkimer diamond mine in New York's Mohawk Valley, home to a Kampgrounds of America (KOA) location. It's one of scores of sustainable products and systems installed at Herkimer KOA's new Solar 1 Lodge, billed as the world's first off-the-grid solar-powered camping lodge.
Of course, the new propane generator set (genset), which Generac describes as a "custom off-grid power solution," plays a more central role at Solar 1 than some of the other ecologically friendly products: the pillows made from recycled plastic bottles, the bamboo hangers, and the ironing board made from more than 70 percent recycled materials, for example. It backs up a system of solar panels to recharge batteries during cloudy weather, producing electricity when the amount of power generated by the lodge's SolarMax photovoltaic panels falls below a preset minimum level or when the electrical demand exceeds the battery pack power available. The lodge itself is a "park model" prefabricated structure made by Arizona-based Cavco Industries.
Besides the genset, the Solar 1's tankless water heater, stove, and refrigerator are directly fueled by propane.
The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) worked to develop this new premium propane generator set in conjunction with Generac Power Systems in Waukesha, Wisc., to meet a series of performance targets. PERC recognized that the growing number of on-site power generation systems has created an opportunity for combining an efficient, low-emission generator set with solar, wind, or other renewable energy sources. It partnered with Generac to come up with a low-cost, long-life generator set that would provide quieter, cleaner, more fuel-efficient power than traditional alternatives with enhanced ease of use and reduced maintenance cost.
This new genset features:
- Continuous power capacity of 6 kilowatts
- Maintenance interval of 500 hours (about a year)
- Life expectancy of 10 years or 5,000 hours
- Noise level not to exceed 65 decibels at 23 feet and full load
"This is aimed at the renewable energy off-grid market," says Bob Heller, Generac's director of new business development in the energy management field. "Prior to this development, generators or the internal combustion engine part of these renewable installations were an 11th hour element. The last thing that was thought of was the generator."
"And those generators were often far from green," adds Scott McCaskey, director of new business development at Generac. "This new genset is greener than any of the other alternatives," says McCaskey. "Before, people were using portable generators, manually turning them on. This new product will start and stop by itself and runs on propane, which is ideal for people who are often living in rural areas. It's going to meet their needs."
In addition to the Herkimer site, units are being tested in Glencliff, N.H., and in Buffalo, Wyo. At least three more sites will be chosen, two in remote areas and one near a populated area that has electricity. "This genset isn't just about the person who can't get grid-supplied electricity to their house," says Heller. "It's also for people who have decided that they don't want to be on the grid."
For more information and free online training courses on how to incorporate propane into off-grid construction, go to www.buildwithpropane.com/training. The topics mentioned in this article are explored in the following courses and fact sheets: