Hospitality industry puts solar on the menu

From luxury resorts to backpackers and everything in-between, we look at a few Australian hospitality businesses installing solar panels to reduce their operating costs.

Written by Justine Summers

Who wouldn’t agree that hotels use up a lot of energy? Just think of the many rooms, common areas and restaurants that need lighting, screens, heating or cooling to keep guests comfortable. There are the kitchens, restaurants and bars in operation every day; the massive load on washers and dryers; and the reception or foyer areas servicing guests 24 hours a day and 7 days a week – all this begins to add up.

The UN’s World Tourism Organisation estimates that tourism is responsible for around five per cent of global CO2 emissions. Accommodation accounts for 20 per cent of those emissions due to requirements for heating, lighting, air conditioning, and the operation of bars, restaurants and pools.

Clearly, there is a lot of potential for renewable energy to be put to use in the hospitality sector – and indeed in Australia, many hotels are taking steps to reduce their energy bills with the help of renewable sources. We take a look at some of the hotels that are being powered by solar:

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Ayers Rock Resort, Uluru, Northern Territory

This resort consists of several hotels, apartments, a camping ground and various other facilities. In 2016, the parent company Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia announced the installation of the Tjintu solar system – ‘Tjintu’ means sun in local Pitjantjatjara. The system is spread across five locations around the resort and consists of 5,770 panels, generating enough power to cover up to 30 per cent of the resorts’ peak use, or about 15 per cent of its average energy use.

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Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, Bundaberg, Queensland

Last year, this island resort announced an investment of $1 million in solar power, in an effort to become 100 per cent powered by renewables by 2020. Adding 42 solar panels to the 475 installed in 2008, which were already saving the resort around $200,000 in electricity bills. The island resort’s solar investment puts them among the larger privately-owned solar panel systems in Australia. But that’s not enough for the resort’s owners – their next plan is to invest in wind power and generate energy from the windy nights on the Southern Great Barrier Reef island.

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YHA, Sydney Harbour, New South Wales

Renewable energy isn’t just reserved for the exotic island resorts. YHA – a hostel popular with backpackers – is leading the charge in sustainability through its multiple environmental conservation efforts. Since opening in 2009, its Sydney Harbour facility has received accolades for its $1 million investment in sustainability features. In addition to a 30kW rooftop solar system, the hostel uses solar hot water panels, rainwater tanks, low-energy lightbulbs/LEDs, water-saving bathroom devices and, even recycled rubber flooring and pin boards made of PET plastic. According to YHA, as a result of these activities, guests at Sydney Harbour YHA use approximately 27 per cent less electricity and 44 per cent less gas per night than those at alternative Sydney CBD YHAs.

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The Crown Plaza Hotel, Alice Springs, Northern Territory

In late 2017, the Crown Plaza Hotel in Alice Springs invested $3.3 million in what has been named the largest building-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) in the Southern Hemisphere. The system comprises 1,326 panels which now generate between 40 and 60 per cent of the hotel’s energy requirements, depending on the time of the year. Not only has it saved the hotel $79,739 in electricity bills annually but also the equivalent of 420 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. In addition, the hotel has implemented a rigorous energy management program which makes use of a guestroom energy management system, energy-efficient lighting and low-flow showerheads in all guest bathrooms.

If you are considering making the switch to solar at your hotel or accommodation facility, we can help. Find out more online today or speak to one of our friendly team members from 8 am–5 pm, Monday – Friday, on 1300 134 138.    

About the author

Justine works in our Origin Business Solar department, and has a background in Marketing and PR. Justine is an fan of sustainable, minimalist lifestyles & is a self-proclaimed vegetarian recipe master – trying her hardest to convince the masses that meat free meals are still delicious.

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