Hospitality industry sees savings from going green

Published: Aug. 21, 2014 at 7:46 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 22, 2014 at 12:23 AM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - With thousands of hotels and restaurants dotting the coast, the environmental impact is massive due to energy consumption. Right now, there's this large scale discussion to get the hospitality industry on board the "Going Green" train. The problem is cost.

Imagine your energy bill costing you $40,000 to $65,000 a month. For the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, that's the reality of business.

At the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, cleaning the floors now involves a ride, with a twist.

"You put just water in it charges the water and creates an oxidizing process that cleans the floor better than the chemicals," explains Myrtle Beach Convention Center General Manager, Paul Edwards.

This machine is just one of many pieces to an aggressive plan to cut energy consumption.

"LED lighting is another project that we've done in our ballrooms, which uses probably half the amount of energy and gives a better light and lasts longer, cuts down on labor - there's all sorts of reasons," Edwards says.

Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association President Stephen Greene says the interest from the large-scale businesses like restaurants and hotels is already here. However, to get to the big rewards, there's a big financial hurdle.

"Some of the larger properties might be putting in new air conditioning and cooling systems. They can see that return investment fairly quickly. When you hear them talk about solar panels the up-front costs are so dramatic, there's a lot of shift now on renting that product and trying to get it to the marketplace to incentivize these businesses to put that on."

Greene says the interest not only by hotel and restaurant owners, but guests to "go green" has surged in the past four to five years locally.

From LED lights, to low flow toilets, recycling programs, to more massive undertakings like upgraded H-VAC systems or even solar panels, there's a lot that a business can do - at a price.

For example, in terms of recycling, there isn't a major glass recycling plant in South Carolina. So a hotel or restaurant would have to pay to ship it out to a facility in North Carolina or Georgia - a huge cost that many owners can't justify. Therefore, the glass is typically dumped into the trash.

Greene believes there needs to be a change at the state level to offer more incentives instead of a fee-heavy burden solely on businesses.

"We need to find way to continue to remove our environmental footprint. However, incentivize these businesses, give them credits, help them go down this path instead of constantly providing additional costs or different fees that could potentially impact their business staying open or not," says Greene.

For the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, they're already seeing the payoffs from the investment, cutting heat and AC usage by 40 percent since they installed 47 new AC units last year.

Thanks to a rewards program with Santee Cooper, those kilowatt savings are translating into a soon-to-be $100,000 rebate check.

"We're taking that money and putting it back into good use," explains Greene, meaning this green cycle pay off will continue.

The Convention Center is actually undergoing another energy audit over the next few weeks, but that's not a luxury just for them. You too can get one for your home or business from Santee Cooper and other electric companies - and the best part is it's FREE.

Santee Cooper Residential Energy Audit:

Santee Cooper Commercial rebates and benefits package:

Horry Electric Co-Op Energy Audit checklist and more:

To become "Green Certified" by the SC Green Hospitality Alliance and the benefits of the title, checkout this guide. (WARNING: Mobile users, the guide is a large file, which affect data charges if you use a limited plan.) 

2011: "Green Machine" cost $45,000 initially but saves $1,000 in chemicals each year.

2011: Lighting upgrade in vendor hall,  from 1,000-watt to 230-watt fluorescent. It cost $64,000, up front. However, half of that was returned in a $32,000 rebate from Santee Cooper.

2013: HVAC project: 47 rooftop units that were 21 years old were replaced.

- Insulation added to roof

- MBCC converts to using natural gas from mid-November to the April 1.

A $100,000 rebate check from Santee Cooper is expected before the end of this year. Money will be reinvested into other projects.

2013: LED lighting was upgraded in ball room with 230 new bulbs and chandeliers.

2014: Kitchen upgrade: $120,000 dishwasher was installed two months ago. The new washer uses 1/23 of water and electricity, compared to the last unit.

What's to come: LED lights for the parking lot are expected to be installed within the next 6 weeks.

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