During the years of the booming stock market, innovative entrepreneurs decided to build the largest self-supporting hall in the world on an airport site in Brand previously belonging to the Russians. They wanted to use the hall for the construction and servicing of airships, which are known to be huge and thus require a lot of space.
They founded the CargoLifter Group, bought the grounds and planned the production of airships. But soon the air cooled down a little; it is now stable at around 30°C. And instead of containing airships, the entire hall has been transformed into a tropical travel destination.
Tropical Island, as the name implies, is a tropical world with orchards, a rain forest, palm trees and beautiful beaches – situated in the middle of Germany. The hall and what it holds seem to be an illusion, as it was in the time of the airships, but today you can actually touch it.
The Malaysian investor Colin Au was the initiator of the Tropical Island project. He was previously manager of the vessel line Star Cruises, and simply decided to reverse the more usual activities of an international cruise company. Instead of bringing guests to the islands of the world, he brings the islands of the world to the guests.
After Singaporean and Malaysian investors bought the grounds from CargoLifter in summer 2002, they invested some €70 million to transform the entire hall. The tropical theme is especially appealing to European guests, who have to endure winters with snow and storms for at least four months a year.
The project was financed solely by private investment, and the resort has created some 500 jobs in the Brandenburg region. It is easy to reach from either Berlin or Dresden, and 5 million visitors from the region are expected to visit this special destination, with another 2 million coming from Poland.
Four thousand guests a day are needed to ensure long-term business survival – a number which has been reached and even exceeded during the first six months of operation. Most visitors buy a ticket for one day, although the gates are open and the park is kept running 24/7. Night-owls and visitors who wish to spend a warm night on the beach in a tent are more than welcome. Daily live shows and several restaurants offer up to 1800 guests excellent entertainment and dining facilities. You feel just as if you’re on holiday on a tropical island somewhere in the Caribbean.
There have even been real vacationers who have visited the park for an entire week, booking a bungalow and spending numerous nights on the beach. This is not the normal case, however – as a rule guests stay for about six hours before heading back home.
Most of the 500 employees in the park live in the region around Brand. Management, administration and maintenance make up one-third of this number; the balance represents those on the operational side who keep the park running. The artists, dancers and acrobats for the live performances originally came from Samoa and are thus real south-sea-ambassadors.
A separate utility had been established in the days when the site was owned by CargoLifter, known as Energie-versorgung Brand GmbH (EVB). The EVB is a joint venture between another utility and the operating company of the Tropical Island project. This operating model is becoming more and more popular throughout Germany.
Three employees plan and operate the park’s utility, which supplies electricity, gas, heat, water and waste water. The water is split into potable water, which is obtained from a public grid, and water for the pools, sanitary blocks and for cleaning purposes.
LOAD MANAGEMENT FOR ENERGY SUPPLY
A medium voltage grid was installed as a ring circle wire for the park’s energy supply. The grid operator EDIS delivers energy at a contracted load of 2.1 MW. About 1.2 MW can be co-generated on-site using a thermal power plant.
An all-encompassing energy management system for the electricity distribution was installed as a turn-key solution by BERG Energiekontrolle GmbH. All grid entry and exit points in the entire mid-voltage network are equipped with meters from the BZEM series. (BZEM is the new energy data collection system from BERG Energiekontrolle GmbH, which enables the collection and processing of data from electricity, gas, water, and heat meters in buildings and industrial locations. The system offers online displayed consumption values such as kWh, and 15-minute load profile data for an unlimited number of measurement points.)
Data collection is done using optical fibre connections from the substations to the central energy monitoring system. BZEM creates a real-time image of the actual load situation, dedicated to the individual aggregation areas. BZEM operates load management functionality in parallel. With predefined alarm and threshold levels, the system can send load switching instructions automatically to reduce the overall energy consumption and avoid load peaks.
Each energy consumer has a predefined load budget as a relative share of the overall contracted load volume. If the actual power consumption of an individual point is higher than its budgeted load, nothing happens as long as other points remain under their maximum level, so that the overall load remains within the required limits. As the overall load gets closer to the predefined limit, the BZEM system sends out timeous information to all the individual points, with pre-warning and switching commands.
CONSUMPTION INVOICING WITH ENerGO
From BZEM the energy data is automatically sent to the central energy system of ENerGO®, where supply and usage are analysed. The measurements are added, authenticated and the true values are checked, with a comparison made between delivered energy values and measured values.
The area on which the Tropical Island is built is so large that future growth and increased business opportunities are likely. These new businesses will all be able to become customers of EVB, and their energy consumption will then also be accounted for using the ENerGO system.
In addition to energy data measurement and control, ENerGO also offers an online disturbance control for the park operator. Water supply and waste water disposal is essential, so this tool becomes vital for the successful operation of Tropical Island. Pump and carrier operations are monitored with BZEM sensors. If there is a disruption to the normal flow, an automatic alarm is triggered via modem connection to the supplying utility EWE, situated close by in Oldenburg.
EWE has offered to plan and take over all maintenance duties for EVB, the park’s own utility. Services being offered include securing the supply, and maintenance on weekends or overnight.
The operators have voiced their satisfaction with the energy data management system. The stable and reliable technology was not compromised by the sometimes staggering magnitude of the installation, thanks to the valuable input of the BERG project engineers. The central Tropical Island Dome – 107 metres high and 210 metres wide – represents the heart of the project, and the further upgrade of the system for the showpiece of the dome, the tropical island, will be tackled in the second phase of the system implementation.
Only one last question remains as we leave the dreamlike Tropical Island resort with Samoan dancers and sea pebbles – what happened to the single airship that was based in the CargoLifter hall at the end of that era? No one here can answer that question, and we are sure that no one really misses it today; beaches are much more exciting than airplanes.