Late last year, The Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown (WV) joined Jefferson County’s solar community by debuting a rooftop array of solar panels on one of their alpine-style hotel buildings. The energy system was designed and installed by Mountain View Solar (MTV) of Berkeley Springs (WV), and consists of 105 SolarWorld 300W modules. The 31.5kW system will produce enough energy to offset an estimated $4,500+ in annual electricity costs.
Although most visitors won’t get a view of the panels, a display screen in the hotel lobby provides 24/7 coverage of the energy output of the system, the total energy generated to date, and additional data.
For General Manager Christian Asam, the project was a combination of necessity and timing. “Ultimately, we needed new roofs on these two buildings,” he said. “We got about thirty years out of them, but it was time to replace them.”
Christian and his brother, Bavarian Inn Vice President, David Asam, had been approached by solar companies in recent years, but the timing just wasn’t right.
“We’ve been approached over the years, but it just hasn’t made sense,” Christian explained. “But we’ve been working with a new CFO—Tony Price [Shepherdstown’s PriceRomine PLLC]. He recently handled the solar project with Matt Knott [River Riders] over at the Harpers Ferry Clarion, and was able to explain to us how it worked so well for Matt, and how it would be a great thing for us.”
With current energy models as they are, the brothers made the leap. “With both the electric savings that you accrue over the years, as well as the grants that you can apply for now, it becomes both financially and environmentally beneficial to do,” said Christian. “And our guests are excited to know that we’re moving in a greener direction.”
In addition to the savings, the USDA awarded the Bavarian Inn a Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant to assist with the installation.
Solar panels aside, the Bavarian isn’t new to this game, by any means. “We’ve been doing things like this for a while,” Christian added. “We partnered with the Appalachian Trail about five years ago with what’s called the Lodge and Give Back program. If you stay here at the Inn, a dollar of your room rate goes to the Appalachian Trail. We also recently signed a contract with Tesla for two car charging stations, so we’ll be able to accommodate electric cars, as well.”
There was also quite a bit of excitement within the staff as many of these green initiatives were unfolding. “Once a week, we have a management meeting, and we brought up the creation of a Green Committee,” explained David, “which would go through the property from the restaurant side to housekeeping to chemicals we use to light bulbs—just exploring all the ways we can become more green. It was inspiring to see the excitement and interest from the staff. Now, they meet with us weekly, as well.”
As mentioned, MTV Solar did the job, but the brothers would have been hesitant to see it through at all without Price. “I’m a hotel guy, a restaurant guy,” said Christian. “I know my business, but solar is over my head. We needed someone involved who knows the industry, the business side, the accounting, the taxes. Tony had already done it with other companies. He was able to say ‘It’s going to work out. These are the places where we’ve done it.’ That made it a lot easier to understand and implement.”
Price has actually been an integral part of the Bavarian’s recent efforts to modernize. “Our bookkeeper, who we employed for many years, recently retired,” Christian noted. “It’s always difficult to find someone loyal and trustworthy—especially to manage your books. We looked long and hard, and finally decided that, with technology these days, you don’t necessarily have to have someone onsite anymore. So we changed our model, and hired Tony as the offsite and sometimes onsite CFO. He comes to the Inn a couple times a week and we’re in consistent contact during the week. They’ve been a great help to us. Not only are they identifying areas like this, but other areas throughout the property where we can potentially be more profitable and responsible.”
Christian knows that modernizing, at any level, usually comes in phases. “Dave and I are trying to keep the Inn current. We’re extremely lucky that our parents started this and that we were able to come back and take it over. At the same time, we realize we can’t just rest on what we have. Most people are now aware of the pool improvements, and we’ve got some other neat things coming up as well.”
David agrees. “What we’ve noticed is that people are becoming more casual—there’s not the need for as much fine dining space as before. We’re also realistic, and realize that we probably need to do some things that attract a younger audience. Things like the pool, like this solar project—that speak to our generation a little more, and get them excited about what we’re doing.”
The brothers have also found that the Inn presents more like a resort these days, and it’s to their benefit to act like one—albeit uniquely. “We’re competing with resorts for longer stays, and the applicable amenities and such,” said David. “We obviously value our history, tradition, and prestige, but we understand that with time, the audience is going to change—the needs and expectations are going to evolve. And we have to evolve accordingly.”
“It’s a symbol of the direction we’re facing,” Christian added. “It’s always in our minds—moving forward in every department—from housekeeping to the grounds crew to the kitchen to the solar panels. We also collaborate with local businesses to offer resort-like amenities—River Riders, Cress Creek Golf Course, Shepherdstown Pedal & Paddle. We obviously want our guests here, but we also want them to experience the greatness and depth of this area—to fall in love with it like we have.”