MANKATO — With the installation of 192 solar panels last week, Courtyard by Marriott Hotel and Event Center is on its way to being Mankato’s first LEED certified hotel.
Preston Lougheed is the general manager of the hotel being constructed near Scheels on hilltop, expected to open in September. As part of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (better known as LEED) certification process, the hotel had to choose an alternative energy source, such as wind or hydro, to supplement energy usage.
The commercial area next to Highway 14 isn’t conducive to a giant windmill, Lougheed joked. So solar panels seemed like the best option. And Lougheed said they are unique.
“It’s almost unheard of in the hospitality market,” he said. “It’s a different animal.”
The U.S. Green Building Council is the creator of the LEED standards, which focus on environmentally friendly construction. Eric Lennartson, a designer and market development coordinator at Paulsen Architects, started the Mankato group.
Lougheed said a cost estimate for the panels is premature. But he said it will be well over $100,000, meaning it will take some time to make back the cost in energy savings.
“It costs a lot, but you will get your return on investment,” he said.
Other environmentally friendly features of the hotel include low-flow toilets, water-efficient heaters and softeners, and usage of numerous recycled materials. The solar panels, combined with other energy-efficient features, is expected to reduce energy usage by 25 percent, Lougheed said.
On a hot, sunny, summer day when the solar panels are collecting the maximum amount of energy, Lougheed said the hotel will actually send energy back to Xcel Energy.
Other LEED-certified buildings in Mankato are the Blue Earth County Justice Center and Rosa Parks Elementary, both of which Paulsen Architects worked on.
Marriott International Inc. has been engaged in a worldwide initiative the past few years to have 300 LEED-certified hotels by 2015. Marriott has dozens of LEED-certified hotels across the country.