Green Spark Solar Blog

Solar Power

Canterbury Mountaineering Club (CMC) installs solar off grid system.


The CMC flagship hut, Wyn Irwin, is located in the Mt Cook national park far from any power source. This particular area is prone to cyclone strength winds which in the past have physically ripped the entire roof off and blown it more than a mile across the mountains. Winter temperatures can also be severe, getting down to minus 25 on occasion.

The hut is an important base for mountaineers exploring the region and Green Spark Solar won the tender to deliver the strongest off grid solar installation ever done in NZ.

On the club’s board are two of the most senior engineers in NZ, one structural the other electrical who scrutinised every detail down to physical principles. Engineering requirements were so tough that the entire structure of the building first had to be strengthened with extra beams, rafters and purlins. Solar panels were of the toughest double glass construction. About six times as many fixings were used as normal to keep the panels on the roof and a triple railing system with silicon pads was erected under the panels to give extra insurance from heavy snow loads and wind blasts.

Wyn Irwin is in a natural alpine valley with steep rock walls and limited sunlight hours. Panels had to be efficient enough to generate enough power in a small time window. The club elected to use German designed SMA inverters, and the best nanocarbon batteries with around 3 or 4 times the performance of normal lead acid cells.

Hardy volunteers from the club helped technical experts from Green Spark Solar complete the whole installation and rewire the lodge in about 4 days, partly during a blizzard.

As a back up the club installed a Kubota diesel generator, in practice this has not been used much beyond keeping itself in working condition. Climbers can now enjoy a fridge, toaster, electric kettle, lights, heating and even a washing machine; as well as charging up GPS’s, radios and avalanche beacons - increasing their comfort and safety using renewable energy.

Posted 183 weeks ago