It’s hot in Bakersfield, California, especially during the summer months when temperatures regularly hit 110 degrees. But as The Hampton Inn & Suites Bakersfield North-Airport is discovering, the sun also has its advantages for reducing utility costs and increasing customer acquisition and satisfaction when the hotel goes solar.
The attractively designed 102 kW solar carport installed by REC Solar, combined with energy efficiencies, will not only offset up to 44% of the 94-room hotel’s electricity costs, but it will also provide much appreciated shade for arriving visitors and hours of sun protection for 29 parked cars.
Why Solar for Hotels?
There are several advantages for hotels going solar. Most important are the reduced HVAC costs, says Braxton Myers, Vice President of Operations for Blackstone Hospitality Group Inc, which provides property management for franchise hotels throughout the U.S.
Myers says that HVAC and 24/7 lighting inside and outside of the hotel typically account for the majority of a hotel’s electricity expenses, and the Bakersfield’s location made cooling expenses even more dominant.
“The amount of electricity that this property consumed was pretty astronomical,” Myers says. He added that on top of the high temperatures, The Hampton Inn’s energy audit revealed that the property was built with vertical zoneline heating and cooling units, which are inefficient for hotels where temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees. So, the solar system’s energy offset would provide a cost-effective solution to replacing the hotel’s entire cooling system.
Beyond the energy cost reductions, hotels with solar and other sustainability initiatives can also benefit customer acquisition.
Myers explains that Central California has many government and business travelers, and that the State requires employees to book rooms from an approved list of green hotels with pre-negotiated pricing. As a result, Blackstone has been able to use its marketing resources to attract government travelers and large corporate customers that mandate the use of sustainable hotels like their Hampton Inn Bakersfield location.
Myers also points out that installing solar on hotels is part of Blackstone’s overall environmental stewardship. “We promote solar and other green initiatives to all of our owners and try to make sure that we’re a responsible operator. Hotels in small communities like Bakersfield are one of the largest consumers of natural resources based on water, electricity, and everything else that hotels consume. So we try our best to be a responsible operator in that regard.”
The Choice for Going Solar with Carports
Myers has personally been involved with two other hotel solar projects, but this is his first solar carport installation, and there were several reasons for this choice.
The first consideration was the Hampton Inn’s roof. Although rooftop solar installations are much less expensive than carports, the design of the Bakersfield hotel’s roof prevented REC from installing a system without first reconfiguring the roof and taking out the use—and income—of several top floor rooms for many months.
Second, the solar carport was attractive and provided extra comfort for guests.
“We do enjoy the appearance of the carport structure,” says Myers. “And from a guest’s standpoint, in an area with 110 to 115 degree heat, we think they’d welcome the shading carport structure that would allow them to get their vehicles out of that heat.”
Blackstone also saw the solar carport as an investment that would attract long distance electric vehicle (EV) travelers. The Bakersfield Hampton Inn installation includes two active EV charging bays that are wired to expand into a total of eight charging bays when EV visitors become more frequent.
Financing Solar for Hotels
There are a number of ways to finance solar PV systems for hotels, and those choices will depend on the company’s resources and business plan.
In the case of the Bakersfield North Hampton Inn, Blackstone included the cost of the solar installation and the energy efficiency upgrades within its initial financing of the hotel, which it purchased in late 2013.
By rolling in the solar improvements to the hotel’s purchase price, Blackstone was able to take advantage of the 30% Investment Tax Credit and other tax benefits.
Solar power purchase agreements (Solar PPAs), commercial PACE programs, and solar leases are additional solar financing methods, but those vehicles didn’t make sense for Blackstone’s current business models, said Myers.
Given their extra expense, solar carports aren’t the best solution for every hotel, but their overall advantages to this particular Hampton Inn’s climate and roof structure made it the best solution for Blackstone—as well as for its guests.
If you have questions about carports or solar for hotels, contact REC Solar for more information.