Solar powered resorts: providing environmentally sustainable holidays

Loadshedding is an inescapable reality for South Africans which, unlike most problems, follows us on holiday. Now more than ever, holiday and leisure companies are finding ways to keep fulfilling the promise to deliver memorable holiday experiences.

The Beekman Group either owns or manages over thirty holiday resorts throughout the country, so the company’s investment into the lives of South African families is almost immeasurable. For over half a century, this South Coast based family business has anticipated the needs of millions of holidaymakers through environmental, social, and economic shifts and by continuously elevating the holiday experience with product innovation and service excellence.

“Conversations around ‘Going Green’ at all of our resorts were active nearly a decade ago, though agreeing on the objective was the easy part. Once we, as a directorship, knew we were aligned with our resorts in the desire to decrease our dependence on the parastatal power supply, the question became ‘How?’ That was where the magnitude of the undertaking became clear,” says Beekman Group director, Cindy Allan.

But the road to sustainability required a bit more than the usual ‘plan and execute’ formula – as Cindy explains.

“While generators were okay at solving the occasional power outage at smaller resorts, they were never meant to be a permanent solution, and we knew that from the early days of load shedding. Besides the noise being a major disruption for guests, generators are not an ecologically sustainable solution. Solar powered resorts were the logical solution and the only option the Beekman directors saw as being sustainably proactive, rather than reactive. We work with a timeshare product that is multigenerational, so our solutions always need a lifespan greater than our own”.

However, over and above the considerable financial undertaking, finding the space to construct solar farms within the confines of the existing properties was a challenge all on its own.

 “Aesthetically, we soon realised that guests weren’t too receptive to the sight of solar panels on the roofs of neighbouring blocks and standalone units, making the most sensible positioning for the panels untenable. Our only option from that point was to construct solar farms and generate the necessary power in areas of the resorts that are not within the sight of guests, but at the same time close enough to supply the property,” recalls Tony Hazel, Resorts Executive

One resort that proved to be the perfect location was Dikhololo, situated in the North West Province. It’s vast expanse of unused land provided the ideal location for a solar farm to generate renewable energy to power the resort. This was a significant undertaking, requiring the installation of  1 344 455 watt solar panels on more than 7 700 square metres of land. The installation was done in stages over a two-year period, which was facilitated by Solar Africa, an industry leader in energy solutions.

“We were never in doubt that it would be worth the investment. Farming the energy slightly offsite meant that the entire installation was completed, and can be maintained, with little to no interruption to our guests. We are now generating just over a million kWh of power annually (over 85% of daytime usage) towards seamless holiday experiences,” says Tony.

The success of the solar farm project at Dikhololo Resort has encouraged the Beekman Group to explore similar opportunities at other properties in their portfolio such as The Kingdom Resort, Cayley Lodge and Kiara Resort. Collectively these resorts save over 9 000 bags of coal annually. By finding innovative solutions to the challenges of limited space and aesthetic considerations, the Beekman Group is setting an example for other hospitality industry leaders and demonstrating that sustainability is not just a buzzword, but a critical business imperative.

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