Edinburgh is home to the UK’s first battery-powered hotel, after the Premier Inn at the Gyle began trialling battery storage. Ross Greenhalgh, Energy Manager at owners Whitbread, revealed more about the project
The 200-room hotel is the first in the UK to be battery powered
Hi Ross. What prompted Whitbread to look at battery storage?
We have a lot of hotels around the country, all running on electricity, making energy one of the business’s biggest costs. So taking action that could reduce our energy costs makes good business sense. This trial is also going to help our commitment to cut carbon emissions in half by 2025, and as much as 88% by 2050.
Why did you choose Scotland for the trial?
Scotland was selected because of its abundance of low carbon electricity. Edinburgh also met the right conditions regarding health and safety and type of energy profile; the hotel uses lots of energy at the most expensive times of day – peak times.
What size is the battery?
We installed a 100kW lithium ion battery which is 3m3 and weighs approximately five tonnes.
Was it an easy project to undertake?
I think when you are undertaking a ground-breaking project like this, where the market is young and there aren’t that many suppliers with a long track record, there are always going to be challenges. For example, we had unexpected issues with shipping the battery because of its size. But with good planning and working with E.On, who have supported us on other energy projects and understand our business, we were able to install the battery with minimal disruption at the hotel.
We worked closely with the local team and essentially had the site ready to plug the battery in when it arrived.
Incidentally, we are now looking at vending machine-sized batteries for our London hotels, where space is an issue.
How exactly does the battery enable you to make savings?
It’s really quite simple. Our hotels typically need energy at times when it’s at its most expensive – typically in the evenings when guests come back to relax in their rooms with their lights, heating, showers, kettles and televisions on. By having the battery, we have the ability to store electricity on site. We can charge the battery when energy is at its cheapest, and then use that cheap energy whenever it’s needed. We can essentially use off-peak energy at peak times.
When we get smart with controls, we can get into some quite clever processes that will allow us to be really responsive and make sure we get the very cheapest energy prices, or perhaps even get paid to charge our batteries or sell energy back to support National Grid.
And of course, we have our 198 hotels with solar PV. Battery storage will make them even more valuable assets.
What kind of savings are you anticipating?
The trial is expected to save the hotel £20,000 per year in energy costs. You can imagine the costs savings we could make across the whole business if we rolled this out across all our hotels.
Have there been other benefits?
Yes, the battery and this UK-first has been a very visible statement to demonstrate our commitment the environment.
People are now coming to stay with us just because of the battery and to see it. As well as reduced energy costs and giving our customers the low carbon experience they want, we have more security of electricity supply too. If there’s any intermittent problems with our power supply, we have the battery to keep the lights on and showers hot for our guests.
Are you looking at any other energy efficiency measures?
Yes. We’ve already been doing lots of things in our hotels, like upgrading lighting to LEDs, voltage optimisation, staff engagement, improving controls on heating systems etc.
These actions are helping the business reduce its carbon footprint and energy costs. In fact, Premier Inn has more sites with solar panels than any other hotel chain in the UK, with 198 in total.
Battery storage is the next step for us – going beyond energy efficiency and looking at the cost and carbon-saving benefits we can get out of energy storage systems.
Article courtesy of Resource Efficient Scotland, a programme from Zero Waste Scotland. To find out more, call 0800 808 2268 or go to www.resourceefficientscotland.com