Wind energy is coming to South Florida’s hospitality industry.
The Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort is installing wind turbines to make some of its own electricity and to attract more guests and conventions that seek out hotels with eco-friendly features.
The hotel plans to spend more than $500,000 to erect six turbines — each roughly 40 feet tall — on its roof by winter. The cost should be offset both by savings on electricity and by spending from new guests, especially meetings groups that increasingly require stays at green hotels, executives say.
The investment is part of a broader plan by Hilton Worldwide to promote sustainability, with a focus on measuring energy use and carbon emissions and by taking steps to conserve. In 2010 alone, the chain estimates it saved more than $74 million on utilities by cutting 6 percent of energy use, 7 percent of carbon output, 19 percent of waste output and 3 percent of water use.
To develop its turbine project, the resort got approvals from the city of Fort Lauderdale and the Federal Aviation Administration, plus support from community groups. The final version does not include several turbines that had been proposed on street level. The resort also documented for officials and neighbors that the turbines are built to withstand strong hurricanes and that their sculpted helix-like blades are unlikely to harm birds.
“The project is a great idea. It shows we’re looking to be green, and it fits in with the whole European concept being developed for North Beach Village,” said area resident Cindy Galiette, a director with the Central Beach Alliance neighborhood improvement group. “It brings more attention to Fort Lauderdale” as a trend-setter.
Installation of the six turbines is expected to start in September and take about a month, hotel executives said.
The project comes as major hotel groups this month agreed to a common standard to measure the carbon footprint of hotel stays and meetings and to cut back on carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. Chains that agreed to the new standard include Hilton, Starwood, Mandarin Oriental, Fairmont and Wyndham.
Florida lags other states in wind energy, partly because it is flat and low and has less favorable winds than areas with mountains or high plains. Experts see greater potential for renewable energy in the state from the sun, ocean currents and such bio-sources as woody plants and algae.
For wind energy, Florida’s coastal areas seem most promising, but some turbine plans have faced opposition from neighbors as unsightly, said Jeremy Susac, president of Real Energy Strategies Group in Riviera Beach.
The largest wind farm proposed for Florida involves a $350 million investment to erect at least 114 turbines — each 500 feet tall — on sugar lands on the edge of the Everglades. The Palm Beach County Commission approved the project in late March. The venture now needs state and federal permits to proceed. Those approvals could take more than a year.