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Sequim hotel goes green

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by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette


Sequim’s Holiday Inn Express and Conference Center now greets drivers on U.S. Highway 101 with a sunny glint from its new solar installation.
Bret Wirta, owner of the new hotel and Sequim Quality Inn, ordered 44 solar panels from Port Townsend’s Power Trip Energy Corp. in May.
The Sequim hotel is the first in the Washington InterContinental Hotels Group franchise, including Holiday Inns, Crowne Plaza and others, to install solar panels.
“We really hope we’re the poster child for the future of hotels,” Wirta said. “I want to get the message out there to other hotel owners that people are looking for environmentally friendly features like this.”
The hotel chain was in full support of Wirta’s solar project, said Heather Pappin, western region area manager for InterContinental Hotels Group.
“We do everything we can to promote our hotels going green,” Pappin said.
The franchise also started a “Green Engage” program, in which Sequim Holiday Inn is involved, that encourages hotels to recycle and convert to energy-saving light bulbs.
Wirta said his Quality Inn also participates in “Clean the World,” which recycles soaps and shampoos to send to Third World countries.

Empowering conferences

To celebrate the solar project’s completion, Wirta hosted a kick-off luncheon with the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 14. He told the business crowd that he sees the solar panels as a long-term and stable investment.
The project cost about $65,000 and takes only a fraction of the western roof space at the hotel, which leaves room for expansion.

“We’ll run it for 12 months and see what the return is and then we’ll decide on growth,” Wirta said.

The solar panels have been online for about three weeks.

Power Trip officials say the energy produced from the roof modules is enough to power the hotel’s conference room.

Andy Cochrane, president of Power Trip, said the system’s 44 Sharp poly-crystalline silicon modules produce 10.34-kilowatts, and on average produce 35 kilowatt hours per day.

“They are among the best value you can get and on this project it gets the most power for the money,” Cochrane said, noting the module has no batteries or moving parts and will be maintenance free. It also produces energy during rainy weather.
“As energy costs rise, it becomes a better investment,” Cochrane said. “At the same time, the installation of solar is going down whereas other sources of energy are going up.”

Solar in sunny Sequim

The state Department of Revenue reported that Jefferson County is the leading solar provider in the state with 87 certified projects as of Sept. 1, with one project for every 337 residents. Clallam County has one certified solar installation per 922 residents. Sequim has 47 projects. Cochrane said most of Power Trip’s projects are residential, with about 70 on Clallam County Public Utility District’s grid.
“Solar leaders like California and Oregon saw it transition from committed residences to businesses looking for long-term stability in their energy costs,” Cochrane said.
“(Wirta’s) going to be able to market that his hotel is run by solar, which ties in really well with the opportunity Sequim has as ‘Sunny Sequim.’”
Incentives for solar installations include federal credits, state sales tax exemptions on the purchase of certain equipment and payments for each kilowatt-hour produced from a customer-generated electricity renewable energy system.
“We know from all the other projects in Sequim that it this is the sunniest spot west of the Cascades,” Cochrane said. “The whole strip of the North Olympic Peninsula has shown a real commitment to solar and renewable energy.”
Wirta said he chose the Holiday Inn Express’ location because it’s a gateway to Sequim.
“We promised the city that we’d build a hotel they’d be proud of,” he said. “The (solar project) also fits in with our core values to be environmentally safe and good neighbors.”
Sequim Holiday Inn Express is at 1441 E. Washington St. Call 681-8756 for more information.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

 

 

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