NRG Energy to install 3MW solar for luxury hotel chain

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NRG Energy, the largest independent power producer and solar developer in the US, has announced the installation of nearly 3MW of PV power for a luxury chain of hotels.

The global alliance will begin with three properties, including the installation of a 1.3MW solar array at the Westin St John in the US Virgin Islands. NRG will build, own and operate the project while Starwood will purchase electricity from the solar arrays.

“NRG and Starwood announced on Friday a new global alliance to expand the use of renewable energy systems at Starwood properties,” NRG Energy said in an email. “The multi-year alliance will begin with three properties, totalling 3MW of solar power in the first phase of the programme, and additional properties being evaluated for deployment in subsequent phases of the alliance.”

Starwood, which owns 1,146 properties in nearly 100 countries, expects to reduce its electricity costs, but did not disclose details of its expected savings.

A survey by the Caribbean Electric Utility Service Corporation (CARILEC) found mean electricity rates of 33c/kWh. St Kitts & Nevis had the lowest rates of 21c/kWh, while Dominica had the highest rates at 46c/kWh.

Caribbean countries and territories are highly dependent upon oil, which can account for as much as 100% of electricity supply and significant export earnings are spent on oil imports.

“In many parts of the world, including in the United States, solar power, generated locally, is well on its way to becoming the most cost-effective, environmentally beneficial and aesthetically pleasing energy option for any customer-facing business,” said David Crane, NRG president and chief executive officer.

Starwood also has set environmental sustainability goal to reduce energy consumption by 30% and water consumption by 20% by 2020.

Ken Siegel, chief administrative officer and general counsel for Starwood, said: “We’re pleased to partner with NRG to be able to provide affordable and sustainable electricity that will benefit the environment, our guests and our business.”

Although less than 10 MW of PV has been installed in the Caribbean to date, nearly 500 MW of PV could be installed by 2016, according to ClearSky Advisors. Over the next five years, almost 90% of market growth within the region is expected to be in the utility and commercial sectors, they say.

NRG Solar has more than 2,000MW of solar thermal or PV projects under development or in operation. This week's announcement suggests that the company is working on similar development opportunities. Last summer, NRG's senior executives reportedly met with representatives of a large casino in Las Vegas to discuss the potential for solar installations to serve load for the massive air conditioning demand.

“NRG Solar continues to grow our portfolio of customised and scale solar solutions to a broad variety of facilities,” the company said via email. “However, we cannot comment on industry rumours.”

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