Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Wind Beneath Their Wings

Of the numerous renewable options for power generation, wind power is certainly one of the most expensive. Yet, there are some hotel, resort and even inn owners that have invested in wind--even though it will be many years before seeing a return on their investment. What is driving these folks to spend up to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on wind turbines?

Having the ability to meet a portion of their electricity needs is certainly one of the reasons for their investments. But it seems that what many owners are trying to do is make some type of statement. What kind of statement? That they are committed to renewable energy and the protection of the environment in general. That they are willing to spend what is necessary to brand their property in a highly visible manner as one that is progressive and green. That they are willing to be groundbreakers--even when there is no ROI in sight.

I recently wrote about the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa in Whitefield, N.H. The owners of that property spent $500,000 on their 100-kilowatt wind turbine. The marketing manager for the Mountain View Grand said the owners paid for the turbine out of their own pockets because "it was the right thing to do." The owners of the Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in Hancock, Mass., paid about $4.2 million for their 1.5-megawatt wind turbine. The expected payback time on their investment? About eight to nine years. For most property owners, eight or nine years is too long to wait to see a return.

I frequently come across individuals who have deep pockets and who are willing to invest in technologies that require ROI patience. Some make good decisions to make their green statements; others do not. Without owners willing to set examples for others, however, new technologies such as wind turbines will never mature in our industry. I commend those investors for showing leadership--even when the business case is questionable.

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