Hotel Microgrids Reduce Energy Costs and Meet Guest Demand for Sustainability


Travelers are looking for accommodations that meet sustainability goals, and a hotel micro-grid can help meet this demand with financial assistance from federal incentives and participation in energy markets.

Travelers have good reason to seek out sustainable hotels. Because hotels operate 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, and include refrigeration, they are one of the most energy and water intensive. consumers per square foot. An average bedroom consumes about $2,200 in energy costs per year.

Two hotel micro-grid projects that aim to achieve customer sustainability goals are Hotel Marcel, a net zero hotel in New Haven, Connecticut that began operating in late 2021, and a Marriott hotel in Costa Rica – Marriott Hacienda Belen – whose microgrid is a first for the Marriott chain in Latin America. It should be operational in the next few weeks.

Connecticut Hotel Microgrid

Hotel Marcel, a Registered Historic Site and Hilton-branded hotel, has a grid-tied microgrid with load shedding capabilities that participates in storage programs to bolster the northeast grid.

These hotels are attracting the attention of environmentally conscious travellers.

“Travelers and customers, in general, are knowledgeable and always looking to minimize the footprint of their activities, and hospitality and accommodation is a very important part of that journey, so it’s only natural that customers are looking for responsible suppliers and eco-friendly experiences,” said Fernando Ortuno, founder of Greenenergy, which developed the Marriott Hacienda Belen project.

The Marcel Hotel microgrid consists of two EPC Power PD250 storage inverters totaling 500 kW, LG Chem batteries that can supply 1,012 kWh, 400 kW of SMA CORE1 solar panels located on a carport, material to insulate the system and additional hardware to drop loads, said Laura Williams, applications engineer for Ageto, which supplied the ARC controller.

“With a full solar panel, microgrids help offset usage in hotels, especially during high usage times during the day,” Williams said. “Hotels want to make sure the lights don’t go out on guests. And microgrids help avoid the use of fossil fuels in standby generators. »

The system will detect a fault when it occurs and open a circuit breaker, and the battery and solar system will support critical load panels, she said.

hotel microgrid

Hotel Marcel PV. Photo courtesy of Bruce Becker

Participation in the energy market

Ageto controls communicate with the building management system during peak clipping events to reduce building load, for example by lowering the temperature by a few degrees. It communicates with the building management system when off-grid mode is active and the building should only use energy for critical operations. It also tells the lift — a big load — to stop running during outages, which extends battery life, Williams said.

The microgrid participates in the New England energy market through Connecticut Energy Storage Solutions program. Similar to many grid stabilization programs in the United States, the controller is signaled when the grid is strained and it sends the battery. If there is excess power on the grid – usually solar – the hotel battery can absorb the excess.

“If there’s too much solar energy in front of the meter and more production than consumption, batteries can be used to absorb some of the solar energy and make the grid more resilient,” Williams said.

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The hotel had been abandoned for 40 years until architect Bruce Becker renovated it, reusing as many materials as possible and focusing on energy efficiency and sustainability.

The financiers

The microgrid cost approximately $2.5 million and was financed by a $2.3 million CPACE (Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy) loan. Additionally, the project received a federal solar tax credit of approximately $182,000. An equity investor invested approximately $590,000 in the project to take advantage of the credits.

“So that gives us a head start on the game from day one,” Becker said.

The 700,000 kWh of electricity produced by the solar panels will save about $100,000 in electric utility costs and the management of the microgrid system is expected to save about another $19,000 in demand charges per year. , Becker said. The project will raise approximately $32,000 annually in renewable energy credit revenue and $30,000 in Connecticut Active Dispatch Program revenue. The total value of these annual savings and program proceeds is $181,000, which covers almost all of the cost of funding CPACE, he said.

Less tangible is the value of resiliency provided by storage. It also sets an example for the hospitality industry, Williams said.

“It certainly makes economic sense, but more importantly, it helps us achieve our net-zero energy hotel status,” Becker said.

Connecticut Energy Storage Solutions Program
hotel microgrid

Example of incentives offered by the Connecticut Energy Storage Solutions program. Credit: Connecticut Utilities Regulatory Authority

Costa Rican Hotel Micro-Network

Like the Hotel Marcel microgrid project, the Costa Rican Marriott Hacienda Belen is also taking advantage of controls to reap the benefits. It uses control and optimization software produced by Heila Technologies. The project includes 250 kW of solar power, a 360 kW/720 kWh battery storage system and a 1 MVA backup generator.

The system maximizes uptime rates by charging storage at night and discharging it during peak hours, said Greenenergy’s Ortuno. This also benefits the public service – Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y ​​Luz. The microgrid is expected to reduce electricity consumption by 17-20%.

Costa Rica does not have load shedding programs that allow customers to be paid to isolate themselves from the grid. The country also has no auxiliary services.

“We are working with lawmakers to enable network services,” Ortuno said.

Reliability is also an important advantage of the project. Several customers Greenenergy works with have experienced about a 15-minute outage per month, Ortuno said. This is especially true in areas with long rural routes that often experience outages due to wildlife, wildfires or high winds.

With their expected financial, environmental, and reliability benefits, both projects are expected to help pave the way for more hotel microgrids that reap many benefits in an energy-intensive industry. And they’re also expected to appeal to travelers looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

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