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Orange Beach Hotels Get State Loans To Save Energy

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Al.com Birmingham

Kathy Jumper, Press-Register
Posted:  05/29/2012 4:08 AM

ORANGE BEACH, Alabama — Three Gulf-front hotels have received a total of $272,541 in state loans to finance major energy efficiency improvements, according to Innisfree Hotels and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

The 2 percent interest rate loans will pay for the equipment and installation of the energy-saving measures at the Hampton Inn & Suites, Hilton Garden Inn and the Holiday Inn Express.  “It can be a pretty significant savings,” said Mike Nixon, regional director of operations for Innisfree Hotels based in Gulf Breeze, Florida. “The electric bill at our Hilton Hotel on Pensacola Beach is more than $1 million a year. These are not little numbers.”

Innisfree has six years to repay the loans, which are funded through ADECA’s AlabamaSAVES program, according to Jim Byard Jr., director of ADECA in Montgomery. The program was created to help businesses install energy-saving upgrades, reduce operating expenses  and boost employment, he said.  The three hotels employ more than 100 local residents, Byard said.

The AlabamaSAVES monies are available to the state from the U.S. Department of Energy, which finances loans from $50,000 to $4 million to commercial and industrial businesses, according to ADECA.
Innisfree expects to reduce energy consumption at each of its three Orange Beach hotels by 25 percent, according to Nixon. The upgrades include new automatic thermostat controls on the air conditioning and heating units, and sensors that turn the lights off when a room is not occupied, he said. The new system also will let the hotel managers know how efficient the AC is running, and can spot a problem before the maintenance crews can, he said.

Innisfree owns and manages the three local hotels as well as properties in Florida. The owners first installed the energy-efficient measures at their oldest hotel, the circa 1995 Hampton Inn on Pensacola Beach, and were pleased with the results, Nixon said. “We figured if we could save money at that hotel, we could save at any of them.”  The hotel owners received rebates from Gulf Power for installing the energy-reduction equipment, according to Nixon. “From a business standpoint, it’s responsible for a triple bottom line,” Nixon said. “And it’s the right thing to do. We say it’s for people, the planet and profit.”