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Siem Reap hotel is aiming for solar sustainability

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The courtyard at the Templation Hotel, which recycles its water. Eliah Lillis

Siem Reap hotel is aiming for solar sustainability

The Templation Hotel, located just north of Siem Reap town, claims to be the first in the Kingdom to try to supply the majority of its electricity from solar power, and is testing a model in sustainability that the MAADS hotel group may scale out to other non-urban properties. The group owns seven hotels, three shops and several restaurants.

Speaking to Post Weekend this week, the hotel’s general manager, Ayub Yulianto, said that the 352 panels can essentially cover the hotel’s electricity demands during the day when occupancy is low, for instance during the off-season.

“The panels can produce around 1,000 kilowatt-hours when the sun is there, notably in April and May,” he said, while the average consumption by the hotel on a given day ranges from 850 to 1,500 kilowatt-hours.

Beyond environmental consciousness, Yulianto said the decision to go solar was also seen as a good business choice.

“Solar panels nowadays are affordable; the return on investment is between four and five years,” he said, when just a few years ago recouping the up-front costs of installation could take one or two decades.

With its relatively high electricity costs compared to its neighbours, Cambodia in particular is an attractive market for solar investments.

As it is located outside of Siem Reap, the hotel must also supply its own water. As such, the hotel’s water is recycled. For example, it uses treated bathwater to water the gardens. Otherwise, it relies entirely on filtered groundwater and rainwater that it harvests throughout the year to supply water for its fountains and massive swimming pool.

This system was subjected to a trial by fire in its first year, as the hotel had to weather the Kingdom’s worst drought since 1979 after opening in January of last year.

“It was a bit worrying because our water reserve … reached a level that was really critical,” he said.

But Yulianto said they made it through without needing to bring in water from outside sources.

Scaling out the solar model for now may be limited to properties outside of cities, where there is the surface area to build solar installations. “In Phnom Penh it may be a difficult … you need open space,” Yulianto said.

Another obstacle to being able to go fully solar on a given property is that for now, there’s no incentive to install a system that allows for the storage of solar power. Any excess power generated is lost, Yulianto explains, because there is no system in place – as exists elsewhere to sell it back to the grid.

Next month, Khmer Beverages is expected to open an expanded production facility, which will have the largest solar power generation in the Kingdom.

Arjen Luxwolda, chief operating officer of Kamworks Utility, which supplies the company with the power on a “lease” system, told The Post last month that the government needs to introduce a net metering policy to allow companies or individuals to sell back excess electricity to the national grid through net metering.

“Net metering needs to be the issue everyone is talking about,” he said. “Without it we cannot make major progress with solar energy in Cambodia.”

Additional Reporting by Matthieu de Gaudemar

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