Embracing the alternatives

Fairmont Dubai's Alka Patel discusses co-generation and green alternatives to conventionalelectricity in a bid to cut down on fossil fuel usage while slashing your property's bottom line.
Embracing the alternatives
By Alka Patel
Tue 11 Nov 2008 04:00 AM

No matter how many energy-saving measures you implement, or how many efficiencies you realise, your hotel will still need to use some electricity.

Options to consider for your energy use are "green power" and co-generation. Green power

Fairmont has been a long-term supporter of green power, which is energy derived from sources such as wind, sunlight, run-of-river hydro and biomass.

Fossil fuels aren’t the only fuels to fire cogeneration equipment.

Green power has minimal effect on the environment and produces minimal greenhouse-gas emissions compared to traditional generation methods.

Wind power: At our North American properties, we've introduced emission-offset check-in.

Working with the Pembina Institute, a non profit environmental organisation committed to "sustainable energy solutions" since 2006, Fairmont has purchased an equivalent of 390 MwH of wind power to offset the greenhouse gas emissions generated by all of its front desk check-in computers.

Made possible by purchasing Eco-Logo certified wind power, Fairmont now has a total of 837 computers involved in the programme resulting in a greenhouse gas reduction of approximately 160 tonnes for 2006 and 2007 combined.

Solar power: For centuries, people have been using energy from the light of the sun.

In a process known as photovoltaics, solar cells or panels of cells are used to convert solar energy into electricity, which can be used to power equipment or to charge batteries.

As manufacturing costs continue to decline for solar panels (currently dropping at 3% to 5% a year) this technology is increasingly being used for home power and even grid connected electricity generation.

The challenges cited for solar panelling, especially in the United Arab Emirates are both operational and financial. For example, the power for an average air conditioning system would involve 50 to 60 panels, which may be impractical due to space restrictions.

Moreover, the ROI on solar panels can take close to 15 to 17 years, a major consideration when hotels allocate for capital expenses when it comes time for yearly budgets.

Co-generation

More conventional electricity is created by burning fossil fuels to produce steam; this steam creates pressure to turn turbines that generate power. But no more than one-third of the energy of the original fuel can be converted to steam pressure to generate electricity; the rest is lost as heat.

Co-generation is a process that uses this excess heat for a wide range of heating applications.

The result is that less carbon based fuel is burned to create heat.

This is known as ‘displacing' fossil fuel combustion.

Through this displacement, co-generation can triple or even quadruple the efficiency of conventional power generation.

Fossil fuels aren't the only fuels to fire co-generation equipment; some operations use wood, agricultural waste, peat moss and a wide variety of other fuels, depending on local availability.

Because heat cannot be efficiently transported over a long distance, co-generation equipment must be located near its heat user.

The benefits of this are that:

• When power is generated close to the consumer, it reduces transmission losses and the need for distribution equipment.

• Co-generation plants tend to be smaller, and owned and operated by smaller and more localized companies, then conventional plants.

• Plants are usually built closer to populated areas, which causes them to be held to higher environmental standards.

It is predicted that a more positive outlook for co-generation will be forthcoming in the following years and as a result facility-operating costs will drop as equipment prices drop and energy efficiency rises.

A prime example is the Fairmont Dubai's sister property in Scotland.

The Fairmont St Andrews installed a combined heat and power system that uses a gas fired engine to drive generators and produce electricity.

The waste heat and energy from the exhaust, cooling water and lubricating oil is recovered and converted to power the resort's space heating and domestic hot water requirements.

The new system is estimated to reduce production of more than 3000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

Alka Patel is the public relations manager for The Fairmont Dubai. For more information email: alka.patel@fairmont.com

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