Highly Successful 104 kW Solar System Just One Step in Concord Suites’ Sustainability Journey

8/30/2012 By Glenn Hasek

AVALON, N.J.—Anyone walking by the Concord Suites at street level would have no idea there is a 434-panel, 104 kW solar system on the property’s rooftop. The panels lie flat on the roof to take full advantage of the sun that shines down on the 90-suite hotel in Avalon, N.J. Since the $500,000 system was turned on late last December, it has performed great and with no problems, says Susan Cawley, general manager. In fact, from its turn-on date through June 30 of this year, the system generated all of the electricity the hotel needed. The expectation is that it will meet 60 percent of the property’s electricity needs annually.

Thirty percent of the cost of the system was covered by a federal grant. Cawley says she has applied for another grant that could end up covering a similar percent of the cost. The return on investment for the solar system is expected to be less than five years.

The solar panels were Cawley’s idea and took five years of planning. Unique to the Concord Suites is its ownership structure. As a condotel there are 90 owners, all members of a condo association, who jointly decide on how their money is spent. Cawley works closely with the association’s board of directors. Concord Suites was built in 1971 as a seasonal seashore hotel. In 1984 it was converted to condos.

Owners 100 Percent Behind Solar

“When the solar project was proposed by the board and voted on by the owners, the vote was 100 percent unanimous,” Cawley says. Because the condo association is a nonprofit and ineligible for tax credits, Avalon Sun Power L.L.C, a small consortium of unit owners and management, was formed to fund the installation.

To get the word out about the solar installation, there is a display in the lobby and there are additional materials in the lobby and guestrooms. “We use social media quite a bit,” Cawley says. At one point the hotel’s logo included a blue heron. That heron is now green and has become the hotel’s mascot. Its name: Eco Eddie. “People are recognizing the green bird now,” Cawley adds.

The owners of the Concord Suites have a goal of reducing the property’s electricity consumption by 20 percent this year. The hotel currently uses 235,000 kilowatts/year. The hotel has been selected to be a participant in the Garden State Green Hotels Project and will have an environmental review performed by New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection. “This program will help us identify ways to reduce energy and water usage, and train our staff on how to implement the changes,” Cawley says.

Not counting the solar installation, the most significant investment the hotel’s owners have made to reduce electricity consumption has been compact fluorescents and LED lighting. “The payback on these has been great,” Cawley says.

List of Additional Green Steps

Here are some additional steps the hotel’s owners have taken to reduce their environmental impact:

•    Formed a Green Initiative Committee of building owners, management and staff.
•    Became a member of the AH&LA (American Hotel & Lodging Association) and are working
with their Green Task Force to develop a series of comprehensive, green guidelines.
•    Transitioned to using amenities packaged in easily biodegradable materials.
•    Implemented a towel and linen reuse program.
•    Removed water bottle machines from the property and installed a hydration station for refillable water bottles right outside the lobby. The polycarbonate bottles are sold at cost to guests. A second hydration station will be installed soon.
•    Set new standards for office supply paper with 100 percent recycled copy paper.
•    Implemented a prominent recycling program in all suites and common areas.
•    Upgraded to energy efficient Energy Star air conditioners and heaters.
•    Installed digital programmable thermostats with lock out parameters.
•    Posted a “Burn Calories, Not Electricity” sign outside of the elevator to encourage guests to use the stairs.

Cawley says the hotel’s owners don’t consider all of the green initiatives a short-term project. Sustainability is a long-term, ongoing project.

“I am passionate about this,” Cawley says. “We need to do something to conserve and preserve the environment.”

To access a copy of the card the Concord Suites places in its guestroom, click here.

Go to the Concord Suites.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.


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