The Earnslaw may go electric

Oct 18, 2021

From Real NZ:

"On her 109th anniversary, RealNZ CEO Stephen England-Hall will be announcing that as part of RealNZ’s commitment to conserving the national icon for future decades, it was exploring alternative ways to generate steam to fuel the steamship.

“The TSS Earnslaw is proud to be the oldest coal-fired passenger-carrying steamship in the southern hemisphere.  She’s a much-loved icon of Queenstown and a significant part of New Zealand’s history.  But as responsible kaitiaki, we have to weigh up every inch of her heritage value with our ambition to protect and preserve the places where we operate.”  

The ship’s original boilers would soon be over 110 years old and would need replacing.  This would be a major and invasive piece of work - requiring the vessel to be out of the water for an extended period of time.  “That would be the obvious time to implement a carbon neutral or carbon zero solution.  We will essentially look for a new source of heat to generate steam that replaces the coal.  The aim is to keep the engine room fully operational and intact,” says England Hall.   

The company had already established a TSS decarbonization team, made up of RealNZ Head of Asset Management Chris Fleck, TSS Earnslaw Chief Engineer Peter Dorrington and Project Engineer Sander Kristensen.  It has already looked across both the process heat and marine industries at alternative ways to fuel the steamship.

The options under investigation are: 

  • Wood pellets (carbon neutral)
  • Bio-diesel fuel (carbon neutral)
  • Renewable hydrogen fuel (carbon zero)
  • Battery-electric (carbon zero)
  • Fully electric (carbon zero)

 Mr England-Hall says the technology required is advancing all the time and preserving the steamship’s authenticity makes it a complex project.  “Conservation for us, is about conserving our history as well as our natural heritage.  The grand old ‘Lady of the Lake’ has been respectfully maintained and operated by RealNZ for the last fifty years, so as always, we will be proceeding with care.  But we’re looking forward to finding ways the TSS Earnslaw can operate sustainably – for the next 100 years,” says England-Hall.

Today, RealNZ celebrates 109 years since the TSS Earnslaw was launched on Lake Whakatipu.  A special extended 2-hour evening cruise at 5.30pm will see the TSS Earnslaw cruise down the north arm of Lake Whakatipu towards Glenorchy to a viewing point of Mt Earnslaw.  

As part of RealNZ’s ambition to be a conservation business enabled by tourism, tickets are by koha donation with 100% of funds going to the Whakatipu Reforestation Trust. 


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