Hyatt’s solar carport first of its kind in state

PO‘IPU — The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa welcomed county leaders Friday to a blessing of its rooftop photovoltaics system, one of the largest on the island and the only to serve the dual purpose of shading vehicles parked below.

The photovoltaic carport is the first of its kind in the state, according to Riley Seito, a senior manager with Sun Power Hawaii LLC, a contractor for the project.

The system, which was powered on a few weeks ago, is expected to produce roughly 400,000 kilowatt hours per year of power for the resort.

Hyatt spokeswoman Diann Hartman said that’s just a “smidgen” of the property’s annual energy consumption, but that doesn’t mean the impact is small. The system is expected to power the entire spa and then some.

Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative President and CEO Randy Hee said the Hyatt project has a high impact on the island’s dependence on foreign oil, but a low impact on the aesthetic value of the resort and area.

“As a co-op, we could look at it as a loss of sales,” Hee said. “But I see it as a gain in clean energy for the island.”

The system will reduce oil consumption by 27,000 gallons of diesel and eliminate 300 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, according to KIUC figures.

This, combined with other efforts, have collectively reduced the hotel’s energy bill by 1.5 million kilowatt hours per year compared to just a decade ago.

In-room recycling is the Hyatt’s next project expected to come online by 2009. While the resort already separates recyclables from trash in the back of the house, recycling bins in each room lets “guests feel like they’re participating,” Hartman said.

Being a “green” hotel attracts a new consumer, too. But that’s “incidental,” Doug Sears, the Kaua‘i Hyatt’s general manager, said. The greatest benefits are to the environment, the electricity bill and employee confidence in their employer.

“When they know they’re working for an environmentally conscious employer, they feel better about where they work and what they do,” he said.

Thoughts have already turned to installing photovoltaics above the main parking lot for guests.

“We hope it’s not far off in our future to have more carports,” Sears said.

For now, though, the hotel will “take a deep breath” and focus on the next major investment: a planned multi-million dollar renovation of all guest rooms possibly in 2010.

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