Chenrezig Institute Added A Solar Power System and Lowered Operational Costs

REA Solar crew members completing installation of the solar power system panels on the gompa, Chenrezig Institute, Eudlo, Queensland, Australia, December 2020. Photo by Marc Talloen.

Chenrezig Institute, an FPMT center in Eudlo, Queensland, Australia, has installed a 22 kilowatt (kW) solar power system on the center’s gompa roof to power some of the center’s electricity needs. Marc Talloen, project manager, Interim Executive Committee, shares the story.

In late November and early December 2020, the Chenrezig Institute gompa and its surroundings were buzzing with exciting activities! In a span of a few weeks we installed a solar power system on the gompa’s roof, started the second phase of the inspiring Nalanda Masters Garden, and made significant improvements to Chenrezig Institute’s roads.

Garrey Foulkes, Geshe Phuntsok Tsultrim, Colin Crosbie, the truck driver, Kym Bartlet, and Ricciardo Ferrari building a reinforced concrete slab in the Nalanda Masters Garden, Chenrezig Institute, Eudlo, Queensland, Australia, November 2020. Photo by Marc Talloen.

A few months earlier, on His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday, Geshe Phuntsok Tsultrim, our FPMT resident geshe, officially inaugurated and consecrated the magnificent Nalanda Masters Garden. The event took place in the presence of Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, who joined us on Zoom, bestowing his blessings on the new statues in the garden and the community. The opening of the garden inspired a flurry of building activity!

The garden was initially dedicated to a group of eight Nalanda masters. However, as a result of the excitement at the opening ceremony, that plan has changed. We are now working towards completing a set of statues of all seventeen Nalanda masters, as well as a Kadampa stupa and more.

A team of dedicated volunteers are engaged in the preparations needed for phase two of the Nalanda Masters Garden and have included a fancy sitting area under the Bodhi tree overlooking the statues and gompa. A team of avid gardeners brought the Garden of Enlightenment to its full splendor.

Kym Bartlet, Gordon Noble, and Colin Crosbie finishing the installation of a new and bigger water drain before paving the road, Chenrezig Institute, Eudlo, Queensland, Australia, November 2020. Photo by Marc Talloen.

Partial road improvement projects—including installation of multiple underground cross-road drains and the concreting of an 152 meter (499 feet) erosion prone stretch of Chenrezig Institute’s main entrance road—have been completed. The road re-opened on December 3, just in time for Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s birthday celebrations. We were then ready to cope with abundant rainfall during the December and January rainy season.

We had been looking into the potential benefits of installing a solar power system on the gompa roof for quite some time. We figured that if we installed a solar power system with a capacity of 22 kW then we should be able to generate enough solar energy during the daytime to cover electricity needs for most of the gompa, entire Sangha living area (about ten people), and the accommodation facilities for about twenty retreatants!

Adding a Tesla Powerwall 2 battery to our solar power system would allow us to store energy generated by the solar power system so that we could buffer the energy supply during times of passing clouds and use solar power during the first hours after sunset. The battery would also serve as a back-up power supply to the gompa during power outages. These outages are not uncommon in this area and can be attributed to random weather events.

Generous donations allowed us to move quickly and begin ample preparations. In November, we started clearing trees and trimming bushes to allow copious sunlight to sprawl over the gompa roof.

In late November, a team from REA Solar, a solar energy company in Queensland, came to partially install the solar power system, including roof racking, Enphase micro-inverters, all of the cabling, a new electrical switch board, and the battery. The Brisbane harbor has slowed down due to COVID, and so we had to wait patiently for customs to clear the new 465 watt solar modules and be delivered.

Magically, on December 2, the REA Solar team came back to install all modules, and then we were able to test and commission our new solar power system that afternoon.

And so very auspiciously, on December 3—Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s birthday—we achieved our first full day of solar energy generation, producing 134 kilowatt hours (kWh) of solar energy and largely covering that day’s electricity consumption. Of the 114 kWh consumed in that first twenty-four hour period, only 12.70 kWh came from the grid while 101.30 kWh came from the solar power system! An extra 31.90 kWh was exported to the grid.

Tesla phone app used by Chenrezig Institute staff to monitor the center’s electricity consumption and production. Graphs from left to right: 1 – levels of electric power consumed in twenty-four hours from the gompa electric network, 2 – levels of solar energy produced that same day by the gompa solar system, 3 – excess electricity produced by the gompa solar system fed to the battery (below the line) and electricity consumed from the battery when there isn’t enough solar available (above the line), 4 – utility network electricity consumed when no solar or battery energy is available (above the line), or fed back to the utility electric grid when excess solar energy is produced and the battery is already full, 5 – a combined graph showing when solar is available during the day, how it is consumed, and how excess is fed to the grid or stored in the battery, December 2020. Photo by Marc Talloen.

Encouraging results show that in those first three weeks the new solar power system helped us reduce grid electricity consumption by 86.13%. We are confident that we will experience continuous substantial savings, lowering our center’s operational costs for many years to come. By reducing our consumption of fossil fuel-generated energy and minimizing our carbon footprint, Chenrezig Institute is making a great leap into a greener future!

We take this opportunity to thank our generous donors who have helped us realize these projects. Please have a look at the video we have put together, showing the solar power system installation and some of our other recent projects.

Watch the two-minute video “Chenrezig Institute is going solar” on the Chenrezig Institute YouTube channel:

We have further renovation and upgrading projects planned, including renovating the Lotus House retreat accommodation, adding a new amenity block, an additional solar power energy system, and adding a new 3 phase electricity supply circuit to the Big Love Café so we can supply it with solar energy.

YOUR DONATIONS are very much welcome and appreciated!

Chenrezig Institute now seeks funding of $300,000 AUD to further upgrade/renovate some essential buildings. Our next priorities are :

  • Renovation of the Lotus House Retreat Accommodation including a new amenities block and an additional Solar System.
  • New 3 phase electricity supply circuit to the Big Love Café (BLC) to supply it with solar energy.

Please donate to:
Chenrezig Institute
33 Johnsons Road
Eudlo 4554
Bank: Bendigo Bank
33 Blackall Street, Woombye, Queensland Australia 4559
Swift Code: BENDAU3B
BSB: 633000
Account number: 161 950 811 (For non tax-deductible donations)
Account number: 161 950 506 (For income tax-deductible donations by Australian donors – see Note below)
When doing a donation please use reference: Lotus H + BLC

Note for Australians wanting to do an icome tax-deductible donation: Once you have completed the donation, please kindly send an e-mail to [email protected] with your name, the amount of your donation, your state, postcode and phone number. You will then be send a receipt useable for the tax deduction.