Commercial Blog

Solar Panels for Hotels

George Riley · 25 Aug 2021

The return of holidays and foreign travel is on the horizon.

Once the pandemic is over, many people are looking to take more sustainable trips. And hoteliers are rising to the challenge. Between 2015 and 2018, the average carbon emissions per square metre of hotels decreased 10% globally, with a 23.4% reduction in the UK.

We believe one of the most effective ways to cut carbon (and costs) is by investing in solar panels for hotels. They can help to win over more environmentally-conscious visitors and reduce monthly energy bills. In fact, Whitbread, the UK’s largest hospitality company, has rolled out solar PV across 20% of its Premier Inn hotels so far (much of it installed by Spirit!).

Read on to find out more about creating a solar powered hotel or reach out to see how we can help on your renewable journey:

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The environmental impact of hotels

The global hotel industry is responsible for about 1% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Hotel greenhouse gas emissions are typically reported as tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per bedroom per year, or kg of CO2e per room per night.

In the UK, hotel emissions are roughly 10-13 tonnes of CO2e per room per year. This is a roughly even split between electricity and fossil gas heating, with higher emissions for more ‘luxurious’ hotels.

The Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI) is a free tool to help calculate carbon footprints in the hospitality industry. It’s used by over 25,000 hotels worldwide, helping to standardise emission reporting.

What is energy used for in hotels?

This is the breakdown of energy usage for a typical hotel:

Average hotel energy usage

Data source: European Commission.

Electricity makes up approximately 40% of the energy usage in a hotel. Here is the breakdown of what that electricity is typically used for:

Average hotel electricity usage

Data source: European Commission.

‘Other’ things include TVs, minibars, pools etc.

It’s important to analyse what energy is needed for in a building, as this will help illustrate where on site renewables like solar power can help.

The advantages of solar energy in hotels

Solar panels produce electricity during daylight hours, and so can contribute towards electricity demand during these periods (or outside them, if you have battery storage). Fortunately, the peak electricity demand for average UK hotels aligns with daylight hours:

Average hotel daily electricity demand

Data source: Ofgem.

This makes solar PV a great option for supplying green electricity to hotels, cutting their energy bills and carbon footprint.

It’s worth noting that the rise of electric vehicles will have a knock on effect for hotels. As a destination, they can cater to EV-owning guests (and staff) with onsite charging. This will of course increase energy demand, but smart integrating of solar power has the potential to supply much of this.

A few years ago, we installed 6 dual socket EV chargers at St Giles Hotel in Heathrow.

What are the best types of solar panels for hotels?

We would typically install higher wattage commercial panels on hotels to get the maximum output from the available space. Our standard recommendation might be the JA Solar 380W modules, as this would give the most cost effective solution. Depending on usage and available space, however, we may specify a higher efficiency commercial SunPower or LG panel if the hotel is looking for longevity and financial returns over a 25 year period.

Financing solar panels: PPAs

Commercial solar PV systems typically have a payback period of 6-10 years, but the upfront investment can be substantial. Another option is a solar purchase power agreement (PPA), in which an outside investor funds the installation and the property owner buys the generated electricity from them at a below-market-rate cost. This can be a great way to make use of your roof space for renewable energy generation if you don’t have the money to invest at the moment.

Green tourism trends

Tourism makes up about 8% of global emissions, mainly through travel. With a growth in environmental awareness, there has been a rise in demand for sustainable holidaymaking. Demonstrating environmental credentials, through onsite solar generation and other initiatives, can really help you stand out to this growing market.

Besides renewable energy generation, there are plenty of other ways a hotel can connect with eco-conscious visitors and have a more positive climate impact, such as:

  • switching all lighting to LED for up to 90% energy savings (we can help supply this at no upfront cost if you have over 100 fittings to upgrade);
  • supporting sustainably sourced local produce;
  • promoting vegan and vegetarian options on menus (as they generally produce lower emissions); 
  • encouraging longer use of towels and bedding;
  • eliminating single use plastic.

Case study: Old Thorns

We recently installed solar at Old Thorns in Liphook, which is a hotel with over 150 rooms, self-catering apartments, a spa and golf course. The epic 217kWp system will help cut the venue’s electricity bill and create a more sustainable experience for visitors (and it was financed via a PPA). Take a look behind the scenes of the installation or watch the aerial video:

To learn more about transitioning to a solar powered hotel, give us a call on 0118 951 4490 or download our free guide to commercial solar PV:

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Topics: Financing, Solar PV