There is an element of fear in launching a new concept or implementing a new technology. In some ways it is like jumping off a cliff—with lots of sharks below. Every day I read about risk-taking companies that flirt with failure but find a way to succeed and break new ground for the rest of us.
On the green side of the lodging industry, one company that can lay claim to a number of important firsts is Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. Its Westin Hotels & Resorts was the first chain to go 100 percent nonsmoking and Starwood is the first company to implement Direct FuelCell (DFC) power plants. (See article.)
Marriott International recently followed Starwood in announcing its hotels in the United States in Canada would go nonsmoking beginning in September. However, three years after Starwood implemented its first DFC plant in New Jersey, no other hotel company has invested in one.
What Starwood continues to do is separate itself from its competitors in unique ways. Its investment in fuel cell power is smart. Its addition of two new 250-kilowatt plants at the 1,044-room Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina will bring the total power capacity of its DFC plants there to 1.5 megawatts—enough to supply 70 percent of the hotel’s base load power demand. The installation will be the largest commercial DFC plant installation in the world.
Financial Assistance Makes it All Possible
Utility company incentives make Starwood’s investments possible. The only negative to the DFC program so far has been having to shut down the New Jersey plants for a few months due to high natural gas prices. The plants use natural gas to produce electricity and generate heat for water heating.
Starwood’s implementation of fuel cell technology today could have a huge impact in the future. Some limited-service hotels could have all of their base power load demands met by just one plant. With a limited number of states offering incentives, however, it is going to take some pressure by the lodging industry to help make funding available. As demand builds for DFC plants, economies of scale can come into play and push prices down.
From a marketing perspective, Starwood’s recent initiatives appeal to an environmentally conscious consumer who appreciates clean air, clean rooms and clean power. Operationally, going nonsmoking or with green energy will reduce capital costs in the long run.
It is true that any decision we make may never have the impact of one made by Starwood. Yet, we can all break new ground in our own ways—either as hoteliers or suppliers of green products and services. Positioning ourselves as leaders and as making a positive impact on the world is what is most important.
Odds and Ends
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As always, your comments are welcome. Please write to Glenn Hasek, publisher and editor of Green Lodging News, at firstname.lastname@example.org.