Solar Installations Becoming Larger, More Frequent in U.S. Lodging Industry
By Glenn Hasek Publisher & Editor, Green Lodging News | May 03, 2015
According to the latest "Energy Infrastructure Update" report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects, solar power provided 20.4 percent of new electrical generation brought into service in the United States during 2014. Solar now accounts for about 1 percent of total installed operating electricity generating capacity in the U.S. According to Sun First Solar, the amount of electricity generated by solar systems has tripled in the U.S. in the last three years. The amount of solar power produced today is enough to power 3.6 million homes. A primary driver of increasing interest in solar is cost. Costs for solar panels are down 50 percent from where they were five years ago.
In the U.S. lodging industry, solar photovoltaic (PV) installations are still quite rare. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Assn., there are more than 52,000 lodging establishments in the United States. Yet, according to Green Lodging News, which has tracked solar installations in lodging the last eight years, there are most likely fewer than 200 properties in the United States with solar PV systems. Even fewer have invested in solar for water heating. Announcements made in lodging in the past two years, however, indicate a growing interest in solar, even on a large scale.
Late last October, NRG Energy, Inc. and MGM Resorts International announced the completion of the world's largest rooftop solar array on a convention center. Covering approximately 20 acres atop the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, the 6.4 megawatt (MW dc) [5.0 megawatt ac (MW ac)] photovoltaic array will produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of approximately 1,000 U.S. homes annually and is the first of its kind on the Las Vegas Strip.
According to Chris Brophy, Vice President of Corporate Sustainability Division for MGM Resorts International, energy from the solar array began flowing around Christmas time.
System Expansion Under Way at Mandalay Bay
MGM Resorts and NRG are also building an additional 2 MW dc (1.5 MW ac) photovoltaic array atop an expansion of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Once completed-possibly as early as August this year-that system, combined with the first solar installation, is expected to provide pricing stability and reduce energy draw from the southern Nevada grid during the hottest time of the day which is also peak electricity demand. During peak demand, the solar installation should provide about 26 percent of the building's electricity. The project is estimated to displace approximately 6,300 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is the equivalent of taking more than 1,300 cars off the road.