News for the Hospitality Executive
VINELAND, N.J.- September 7, 2011 —For the last year and a half, drivers motoring down Route 55 in Vineland, N.J., have been met with a surprising site—a 2,500-solar panel installation behind the Ramada Vineland. The .5-megawatt system sits on three acres of land owned by NGL Property Management, owner and operator of the adjacent 102-room Ramada. The solar system provides about 75 to 80 percent of the hotel’s power. That is significant given that the hotel has a banquet hall and three food and beverage facilities: Dakota Prime Steak House and Sushi Bar, Harry’s Pub (Bar & Grill), and The Speedway Café. According to John Scipione, owner of the hotel with his family, if there were no restaurants the solar panels would meet all of the hotel’s electricity needs.
After the Ramada was purchased by NGL Property Management in January 2009, Scipione was looking for ways to update the tired property that was 25 years old at the time. “I spent two and a half months reading about solar power and how to reduce our carbon footprint,” he says.
One of the first easy investments was compact fluorescents (CFLs). A total of 1,400 incandescent bulbs—60, 75 or 100 watts in size—were replaced with 13-watt CFLs. A towel and linen reuse program was implemented per Wyndham Worldwide standards, and faucet aerators and high efficiency toilets were installed. It is the field of solar panels, however, that has had the most positive environmental impact.
System is Ground Mounted
Working with Pfister Energy, a local vendor of renewable energy systems, the $2.6 million solar system was installed using ground mounts. It was wind tested and will withstand hurricane force winds. Scipione says the system requires no maintenance. On rare occasions, when there is an ice storm, the panels can be covered for short periods of time. Twice since the system was turned on in February 2010, one of the two 250-kilowatt inverters has failed. “The last time one went down—this past February—it was down for 25 days,” Scipione says. “That is one pitfall we have to watch out for.”
Inverters convert the DC power created by the panels into AC power. This electricity is fed into the grid. The local utility company does not pay NGL Property Management for the generated power but NGL is credited for it. “They net meter,” Scipione says. “If we overproduce, we eventually end up using the excess power.” The owners’ energy saving efforts have helped reduce the hotel’s monthly electricity bill from $15,000 to $5,000.
NGL Property Management is paying for the solar system with a loan from a local bank as well as a Small Business Administration loan. Also helping to pay for the system are SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Certificate). For every 1,000 kilowatt-hours produced by the hotel’s solar panels, an SREC is generated. SRECs can be sold by NGL via an SREC Tracking System to energy companies looking to meet green energy production/purchase requirements. NGL will be able to do this for 15 years. NGL is also benefiting from a 30 percent federal tax credit and other tax benefits. Because of the creative business model and the fact that the solar system is producing well, NGL is able to cover its debt payments with no problems.
Other Businesses Inspired by Investment
The hotel’s solar system is publicized on its outdoor sign and a flat screen monitor in the lobby features an explanation of the panels’ benefits. Scipione says he gets visitors stopping by because of the panels and groups meet at the hotel to learn about solar panel installation. Other businesses in the Vineland area have been inspired by the Ramada installation and have put in their own solar systems.
The Ramada Vineland’s solar installation, as well as others like it in New Jersey, has helped make the state second only to California in total solar installations.
This article first appeared on the Green Lodging News website. To sign up to receive the weekly Green Lodging News newsletter, go to www.greenlodgingnews.com. Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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