A few generations ago, before booking an overnight reservation, travelers would generally ask if a hotel had a pool, cable TV and a bar. But today before checking in, some savvy hotel guests are asking questions about air quality, water conservation and how often the housekeeping staff changes the towels and sheets. And they may already know the answers.
Before choosing a destination, travelers can check several online databases to see if a hotel or motel is environmentally friendly. The lists are posted by different green lodging certification programs that award green seals of approval to hotels, motels and inns that qualify.
Touting environmental upgrades and innovations are part of the greening of the hospitality market, an industry evolution that is picking up some serious steam these days. The shift started slowly about 15 years ago, and there were no races among cost-conscious hoteliers to jump on the bandwagon.
Still, many chains and independent operators switched over to chemical-free cleaners, low-flush toilets and an every-other day change of linens and towels in order to earn their green seals. It was, after all, good marketing.
Now, however, the hospitality industry is seen green innovations in very practical terms – they save significant amounts of cash. And some of the major players in the market are no longer tinkering at the edges of the green-lodging movement with organic mini soaps and recycling bins. Some hotels are making major investments in solar power.
The Hyatt Regency New Brunswick, NJ, recently installed a 32,000sf, 421-kilowatt system over the top floor of the hotel’s garage. According to Hyatt, the new solar panels will reduce CO2 emissions by 10,000 tons over the next 30 years, and will help lessen oil dependence by at least 749 barrels annually.
On the West Coast, San Francisco’s Hotel Carlton is blazing the solar trail with a photovoltaic system that produces about 12 percent of the building's electricity. And solar energy isn't exclusive to higher end hotels. Comfort Inn and Suites is also embracing solar and its bottom-line benefits.
The Comfort Inn in Bozeman, Montana has 24 solar panels heating up enough water to satisfy 65 percent of the hotel's hot-water needs. Management says the panels saved the business $3,800 in natural gas costs over the first nine months. At the Comfort Inn La Estancia near San Diego, the management hoping to see similar savings once its 83 kilowatt photovoltaic system is in place.
SOLAR MAKES SENSE
Investing in solar power makes sense for many businesses. For the hospitality market it makes nothing but sense. Hotels and motels consume vast amounts of energy. At large hotels and resorts hundreds of lights, air-conditioners and televisions burn fuel 24/7 and in many cases, guests aren't even in the room. According to the federal government’s Energy Star program, U.S. hotels spend an average of $2,196 per room each year on energy.
A study by Sage Blossom Consulting of 4,400 of the more than 50,000 hotels across the United States found 12 percent use some type of alternative energy. And that figure is starting to rise as the hospitality industry look for cheaper and greener types of energy.
Solar power is a perfect match for hotels and resorts that cater to tourists in Sunbelt states. Florida and California are leading the hospitality industry in green initiatives.
Some hotel owners are even choosing to become energy operators with solar energy systems that collect power during sun's peak morning and afternoon hours, the times when most guest are out of their rooms. Hotels sell that energy to the grids for peak daytime hour prices and then buy discount evening-hour energy to power the A/C for returning guests.
INCENTIVES TO INVEST
For many in the hospitality industry, the roadblock to buying into solar is the initial investment, which can be substantial. However, there are many loan programs, grants rebates and tax credits available. The ticket price for the photovoltaic system at the Hotel Carlton was $163,951, but after rebates and tax credits the net cost was only $13,727.
The Westin Westminster in Colorado has applied for a federal grant and a rebate from Xcel energy to help pay for the new 32-kilowatt solar energy system that will help provide power to its 369 rooms.
Hotel owners and managers who have invested in solar say savings in energy costs start immediately. And many expect to see a bump in reservations thanks to the green travel and tourism guides that let travelers know which hotels are making a commitment to the environment.
Sakuu Corporation creates 3D printer for EV batteries
Sakuu Corporation has announced a new industrial-grade 3D printer for e-mobility batteries which it claims will unlock the mainstream adoption of electric vehicles.
Offering an industrial scale ‘local’ battery production capability, Sakuu believes the technology will provide increased manufacturer and consumer confidence. Sakuu’s Alpha Platform for its initial hardware offering will be available in Q4.
Backed by Japanese automotive parts supplier to major OEMs, Musashi Seimitsu, Sakuu is set to enable fast and high-volume production of 3D printed solid-state batteries (SSBs) that, compared with lithium-ion batteries, have the same capacity yet are half the size and almost a third lighter.
The company’s KeraCel-branded SSBs will also use around 30%-50% fewer materials – which can be sourced locally – to achieve the same energy levels as lithium-ion options, significantly reducing production costs. Sakuu anticipates the 3D printer’s attributes being easily transferable to a host of different applications in other industry sectors.
"For the e-mobility markets specifically, we believe this to be a landmark achievement, and one that could transform consumer adoption of electric vehicles,” said Robert Bagheri, Founder, CEO and chairman, Sakuu Corporation. “SSBs are a holy grail technology, but they are both very difficult and expensive to make. By harnessing the flexibility and efficiency-enhancing capabilities of our unique and scalable AM process, we’re enabling battery manufacturers and EV companies to overcome these fundamental pain points."
The ability to provide on-demand, localised production will create more efficient manufacturing operations and shorter supply chains, he added.
Sakuu will initially focus on the two-, three- and smaller four-wheel electric vehicle market for whom the company’s SSB proposition delivers an obvious and desirable combination of small form factor, low weight and improved capacity benefits. The agility of Sakuu’s AM process also means that customers can easily switch production to different battery types and sizes, as necessary, for example to achieve double the energy in the same space or the same energy in half the space.
Beyond energy storage, Sakuu’s development of print capability opens complex end device markets previously closed off to current 3D printing platforms. These include active components like sensors and electric motors for aerospace and automotive; power banks and heatsinks for consumer electronics; PH, temperature and pressure sensors within IoT; and pathogen detectors and microfluidic devices for medical, to name a few.
"As a cheaper, faster, local, customisable and more sustainable method of producing SSBs – which as a product deliver much higher performance attributes than currently available alternatives – the potential of our new platform offers tremendous opportunities to users within energy, as well as a multitude of other markets," said Bagheri.
Ongoing research and new funding collaborations
Omega Seiki, a part of Anglian Omega Group of companies, has partnered with New York-based company C4V to introduce SSBs for EVs and the renewable sector in India. As part of an MoU, the two companies are also looking at the manufacturing of SSBs in the country, according to reports.
Solid Power, which produces solid-state batteries for electric vehicles, recently announced a $130 million Series B investment round led by the BMW Group, Ford Motor Company and Volta Energy Technologies. Ford and the BMW Group have also expanded existing joint development agreements with Solid Power to secure all solid-state batteries for future EVs. Solid Power plans to begin producing automotive-scale batteries on the company's pilot production line in early 2022.
"Solid-state battery technology is important to the future of electric vehicles, and that's why we're investing directly," said Ted Miller, Ford's manager of Electrification Subsystems and Power Supply Research. "By simplifying the design of solid-state versus lithium-ion batteries, we'll be able to increase vehicle range, improve interior space and cargo volume, deliver lower costs and better value for customers and more efficiently integrate this kind of solid-state battery cell technology into existing lithium-ion cell production processes."
A subsidiary of Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest private company, Vinfast has signed an MoU with SSB manufacturer ProLogium - which picked up a bronze award at the recent Edison Awards - to accelerate commercialisation of batteries for EVs (click here).
Xin Li, Associate Professor of Materials Science, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is designing an SSB for ultra-high performance EV applications. The ultimate goal is to design a battery "that outperforms internal combustion engines so electrical vehicles accelerate the transition from fossil-fuel-based energy to renewable energy," according to The Harvard Gazette.
The dramatic increase in EV numbers means that the potential battery market is huge. McKinsey projects that by 2040 battery demand from EVs produced in Europe will reach a total of 1,200GWh per year, which is enough for 80 gigafactories with an average capacity of 15GWh per year.