In 2014, Wynn Resorts embarked on an energy procurement strategy to gain more decision-making authority over its long-term sustainability efforts. Five years later, the plan has elevated the company to the forefront of environmental innovation and stewardship in Las Vegas and Nevada.
Wynn Resorts’ Chief Sustainability Officer Erik Hansen explains the vision behind this pioneering initiative. “The starting point was switching from buying power from our local utility to buying it directly from the open wholesale market,” says Hansen, an energy industry veteran who spearheaded the undertaking. “That uncoupling process took two years and included paying the Public Utilities Commission an exit fee to ensure there wouldn’t be a negative impact on remaining rate-payers. With that, we officially exited the utility two years later.”
The next step was truly trail-blazing. “We partnered with Enel Green Power, a global leader in the development of renewable energy projects, to build our off-site utility scale solar energy field, known as the Wynn Solar Facility,” says Hansen. “With no third-party utility in between, we deliver power to the resort straight from the Wynn Solar Facility. That is a huge achievement – nobody else in Nevada has figured out how to make that work.”
Set on 160 acres in Fallon, Nevada, the 20-megawatt Wynn Solar Facility opened in June 2018. Combined with solar panels that cover 103,000 square feet of Wynn’s rooftop, all meeting and convention space at Wynn and Encore is powered with 100 percent renewable energy. Sunnier still is how Wynn has maximized this resource to zero out environmental impact from meeting and convention operations.
Here Comes the Sun
The Wynn Solar Facility factored directly into planning for the new 300,000-rentable-square-foot expansion of Wynn’s convention space, scheduled to open in February 2020. “The ability to directly deliver our own power created a new opportunity,” says Hansen. “Meetings and conventions held at Wynn and Encore could now be 100% sustainable. We formalized this capability for clients with our new Zero Carbon, Zero Waste Event service.”
Introduced this past September, this premium offering is one of several tiered green packages available to meeting and convention clients. Overseen by specially trained convention service managers, the Zero Carbon, Zero Waste Event service uses a six-point approach to ensure the most sustainable event possible. The cornerstone of the package is a zero carbon component, a first-to-market innovation.
Zero Carbon Offset
As solar-generated power travels to Wynn and Encore, metering equipment traces its progress, including measuring and analyzing the resorts’ exact energy load at any given time. From there, Wynn can get granular with energy consumption by meeting or event.
“By applying our customized algorithms to this usage data, we can read the precise electrical impact of a meeting or convention from the moment attendees enter the resort to the moment they leave,” Hansen says. “Say we host 1,000 conventioneers for three days. After calculating their collective electrical usage for the duration of their stay, we equivocate that count to kilowatt hours of energy. That then becomes the basis for determining the number of renewable energy credits, or RECs, associated with the event.”
As Hansen explains, a REC officially accounts for and certifies the production of one megawatt-hour of energy from a renewable energy resource. “RECs are valuable and versatile instruments,” he says. “Wynn can transfer the credits to a client account or retire them on the client’s behalf. Whether for compliance, internal reporting, or corporate communications, the client can verifiably say that they came to Las Vegas and held a zero carbon event at our resort. In this new era of eco-innovation in the global MICE industry that makes a powerful statement.”
In addition to the zero carbon effort, the other five components of the Zero Carbon, Zero Waste Event service include:
• Zero Waste Recycling Effort: Minimum of 90% of event waste will avoid landfills. Wynn’s single-stream recycling program and asset recovery system will ensure that all waste is accurately sorted.
• Aluminum Water Bottles: Plastic water bottles are replaced with recyclable reusable aluminum water bottles and/or eco-friendly water bubblers with biodegradable compostable cups.
• No Single-Use Plastics: No plastic straws, place settings, drinkware, cutlery or food stations.
• Sustainable Food Sourcing: Catering menus are created from certified local ingredients, with capabilities to procure any organic, vegan or highly specialized food sourcing request. Event food waste is collected and transferred to an agricultural farm and turned into animal feed.
• Event Materials Upcycling: Event production materials such as furniture, lighting fixtures, rugs and supplies are donated to local nonprofits that have longstanding partnerships with Wynn.
“We also provide customized reporting of all sustainability initiatives achieved at the meeting or convention,” says Hansen. “The end result is a state-of-the-art event with an immediate and measurable sustainability impact that our clients can be proud of.”
Atlanta-based Cox Communications is one such client. Since launching its own green initiative, Cox Conserves, in 2007, the company has invested $100 million in sustainability and conservation activities. From the initial goal of reducing its carbon emissions by 20% in five years, the company’s expanded objectives include zero waste to landfills by 2024 and reducing its carbon and water emissions by 2044.
“It is vital to find corporate partners that are aligned with our high standards so that we can achieve our sustainability goals," says Len Barlik, Cox Communications’ executive vice president and chief operations officer. “Wynn works closely with us to make every element of our conventions as eco-friendly as possible. Creating sustainable meetings at our large scale can be challenging, but Wynn has pioneered executable solutions to complicated environmental issues, and the level of service we receive is never compromised,” adds Barlik, “and neither is our guests’ experience.”
Learn more here about hosting an event at Wynn Las Vegas.
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