Robust water and energy systems means volunteers can comfortably participate in the program; Robust water and energy systems means volunteers can comfortably participate in the program;

Operation Flinders, Far northern Flinders Ranges, South Australia

Off-grid solar photovoltaic system used most of the year

The Operation Flinders Foundation run 8 day, 100km wilderness adventure programs for at risk and disadvantaged participants between the age of 14 and 18 years in the far northern Flinders Ranges of South Australia, providing an opportunity for participants to break away from their past and grow as valued members of the community.

The aim is to develop personal attitudes of self esteem, leadership, motivation, team work and responsibility. Teams learn basic bush survival skills, are taught to abseil, discover Aboriginal culture and learn of the rich history of the Flinders Ranges. Unlike other aspects of their lives, there is not an opportunity for the participants to ‘opt out’.

Arup is working with Operation Flinders on a pro bono basis on the water and energy systems at their Yankaninna Homestead which can house approximately 50 volunteers during operations to support those in the field. The homestead is completely off-grid and provides its own water and power needs. Potable water is currently available through an ageing brackish groundwater reverse osmosis unit that is too small for Yankaninna’s demand. In addition to the capacity limitations, the existing system configuration has some inherent inefficiencies.

We have assessed the current water needs and infrastructure, and are developing a scheme that will provide a robust, efficient, easy to use and safe water supply. The scheme uses rainwater in preference to desalinated water and minimizes pumping requirements to reduce energy needs and operational costs.

Yankaninna’s power is currently supplied from two onsite diesel generators. Arup is developing a standalone solar photovoltaic system with battery bank to provide the majority of the sites power needs when not hosting programs for the majority of the year. The diesel generators will supplement solar power when demand is high. This will significantly reduce ongoing diesel costs and increase workplace safety.

Appropriate advice

Arup has provided Operation Flinders with independent and impartial advice and technical input.  Designs are developed from the perspective and needs of the end-user, rather than forcing a solution onto a situation where it may not be appropriate. The designs consider the financial, technical and ongoing maintenance capacity of Operation Flinders as well as the environment in which the system operates.

A rewarding experience

Staff have enjoyed working on this local scale project where the impacts are direct and personal.  Two Arup staff – Hilary Pocock and Simon Schutz – were able to visit Yankaninna Station during a weekend Sponsors visit while 80 participants took part in an Operation. Not only were Simon and Hilary able to collect information that informed the subsequent technical advice, they were also able to meet with some participants to talk with them about the challenges they face in their lives and to gain an understanding about how this experience was changing them. 

Hilary and Simon were able to observe the positive impact that Operation Flinders has on the lives of participants. It was an empowering experience and one that both educated Arup staff about important issues faced by the local community while highlighting how these problems can and are being addressed.